The 4 most common winter workplace injuries
Posted on 30th Nov, 2021 | By Lorretta Tatham
As winter approaches, new risks within the workplace rear their ugly heads. Risks of injury and sickness need to be assessed on an ongoing basis, but the cold weather provides additional problems. Wet weather and colder temperatures combine to give any occupation an extra set of headaches.
Planning ahead as a business is always helpful. The additional dangers that winter brings could be mitigated by providing the right assistance to your staff. For example, first aid training (like the kind we provide here at Browns Safety) can help increase knowledge and awareness amongst your staff of how to react when the worst does happen. But as ever, preventative measures are always preferable to reactive ones – so here’s what to look out for.
Falling from ladders
This is a common winter workplace injury because of the dangerous combination of slippery conditions and windy weather. In the UK, 14 deaths a year occur because of falling from ladders. It’s always important to be careful when climbing a ladder, but the fact is that wet conditions make things even more risky. Ideally, any Work At Height should be delayed until the most dangerous weather passes, but we recognise that’s not always an option. So if you absolutely need to get the job done, make sure you always maintain three points of contact, and that there’s a second person holding the ladder will help with safety, so that they’ll be able to provide immediate help (or send for some) if an accident happens.
Slips and trips
The most obvious winter workplace injury is from slips and trips. While this is a common injury all year round, the extra rain and ice on surfaces during winter mean slipping is an all-too-common cause of injury. An antidote to slippery surfaces is to provide wet floor mats, regular cleaning and informing staff of high-risk areas. Ice can build up quickly, especially in places such as warehouses and yards, and it’s important to make staff aware of the dangers. Black ice is a huge danger because it is difficult to see. Bringing attention to this when it’s noticed can be a huge help.
Always ensure wet floors are signposted with wet floor signs, too, as these are required by law.
The cold temperatures and wet surroundings can make vision really difficult while driving. This is often a problem for forklift drivers as fog, snow and rain can easily impair people’s line of sight. Ensure that workers on site use the right PPE – including high-vis vests, helmets, steel toe boots (etc), as necessary. Additionally, make sure to perform frequent safety checks on the vehicles on-site. Measuring the grip of the tyres and that the lights are bright enough are two strong safety measures that would help avoid accidents during winter.
Prepare for cold stress
If your business requires your employees to work outside for long stretches, it’s important that they are aware of the affects of cold stress and how to avoid it.
Cold stress is a condition when your skin becomes so cold that body temperature goes down drastically. When this happens, the body is susceptible to illness and injury more easily. This proves an acute risk when working in cold weather. Making your employees aware of what they can do to avoid cold stress is key to keeping a fit workforce.
Dressing appropriately is the most important factor. While manual work may be warming, the skin can still become very cold even if the work is causing workers to sweat. Providing correct clothing such as gloves, boots, coats and hats will help. Additionally, drinking plenty of fluids will avoid dehydration, something which can cause severe illness is cold stress occurs.
Finally, ensure that all heavier lifting work and intense labour is done during the warmer parts of the day, if possible. Just a few degrees difference will prove less stress on the body and again avoids injury when cold stress may be setting in.
Being aware of where workplace injuries can come from is half the battle, and it’s worth taking the extra time to conduct a dedicated winter risk assessment. Extra training can also be a huge help – and that’s where we come in here at Browns Safety. Our experts offer a range of services training courses on working at height, access equipment, and abrasive wheels. You can book your own place on each of the pages listed above, or contact us directly by calling 01282 615517 or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org.