As a business you are no doubt aware of many of the ‘winter risks’ within your business. The level of risk will vary from business to business but the most common areas of risk in the winter are; ‘Driving at Work’, ‘Slips, Trips and Falls’ and ‘Working Outside’.
As a business, you have a legal duty to ensure that you have considered the risks, not only to employees, but to everyone who uses your premises.
Driving in the winter brings a whole new set of challenges – icy roads, poorer visibility and the ‘usual suspects’ on the roads means you need your wits about you. We can’t prepare for who you’ll meet on the roads, but we can give you a few things to help prepare you and your car/s.
- Always check the traffic and weather reports for your journey, particularly on the days when the conditions are challenging’; www.highways.gov.uk, www.trafficscotland.org and www.traffic-wales.com
- Check the local and regional traffic reports for any localised issues.
- Allow an extra 20 minutes for short journeys, 30 minutes for longer ones – better to be early than dead.
- Make sure your car is ready for winter – keep oil, water, screenwash and brake fluid topped up.
- Check the tyre treads and pressures – make sure to adjust them for winter and wet conditions.
- Pack an emergency kit into the boot – first aid kit, torch, water bottle (with water!), blankets, hazard triangles, coats, hats, gloves, emergency contact numbers, snacks that will last!
- If you live or travel in rural locations consider snow tyres or snow chains – if your work is that important that you must be there come rain, shine, sleet and snow, you may as well make an investment into these items or better still, ask if your employer will help towards the cost.
- Consider a breakdown policy – if this isn’t an option then consider an emergency plan should you get stuck or breakdown. Who will rescue you?
- Make sure your mobile phone is charged suffice to make it home – no point having one if you can’t use it when you need to.
When the weather or conditions are particularly bad, the best option would be to stay at home – if you can work from home then discuss an emergency policy with your boss to cover those days when travel becomes dangerous.
Slip and trip accidents can happen for a number of reasons although the risk in the winter is considerably higher than the other months of the year. There are, however, a few things that you can do to lessen the risk.
- Wear appropriate footwear – snow and ice are no place for your new Jimmy Choo’s or Italian men’s leather brogues.
- Try and keep to gritted paths and walkways.
- If the council have made grit available, use it outside your house, driveway and pathway.
- Help old and frail people – say no more!
- Allow yourself extra time to get anywhere – even if you’ll be ok in the conditions, the roads and pavements will be teaming with others who aren’t!
- Prepare a basic first-aid box to keep at home and/or work.
In the event of someone injuring themselves could you deal with it?
If not, then why not come and learn basic first-aid. Our 1-day ‘Emergency First Aid at Work’ course can help you develop the skills necessary to become a competent and confident First Aider in your work place.
On completion you will be awarded an ‘Emergency First Aid at Work’ certificate, valid for 3 years.
A larger number of our customers work outdoors in the winter. With low temperatures, poor weather conditions, wind and rain, this can lead to severe health problems, such as frostbite or hypothermia.
- Ensure that you (your staff) have the right personal protective equipment and it is appropriate for the conditions
- It sounds silly but drink warm fluids like soup or hot chocolate
- Retreat to a warm area during breaks
- Make sure to protect your ears, face, hands and feet
- Boots should be waterproof and insulated
- Wear a hat as it will keep your whole body warmer – hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head
- Take more frequent rest breaks
- Recognise the symptoms of Cold Stress
To help you recognise the early symptoms of cold stress:
Hypothermia – symptoms of hypothermia can vary depending on how long you have been exposed to the cold temperatures.
- Loss of coordination
- Confusion and disorientation
- No shivering
- Blue skin
- Dilated pupils
- Slowed pulse and breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Frostbite – symptoms of frostbite include:
- Reduced blood flow to hands and feet – fingers or toes can freeze.
- Tingling or stinging
- Bluish or pail, waxy skin
- Reddening of the skin
- Leg cramps
- Tingling pain
- Blisters or ulcers
- Bleeding under the skin
- Gangrene – the foot may turn dark purple, blue, or grey.
- Possible blistering
- Possible ulceration in severe cases
Image Source: Wikipedia
- Undertake a winter risk assessment to identify hazards that might affect your employees and others in the event of severe or adverse weather hazards might include: driving, slips trips and falls, poor lighting, cold and freezing temperatures, lone working, heating appliances and work equipment.
- Check gutters and downpipes ensure they are clear of leaves and debris to prevent water leaking out and freezing across car parks and walkways
- Ensure you’ve a plan in place for severe/adverse weather, appoint someone to monitor the weather forecast and ensure you’ve adequate supplies of salt/grit or suitable alternative arrangements in place
- Consider putting together a gritting plan and clearly identify key areas that need to be kept clear and prioritise these. This might include access to car parks, footpaths, access to main doors, bin stores, outbuildings and emergency exits
- Ensure company cars are serviced and ready for winter – check oil, water, screen-wash and brake fluid levels are topped up, tyres are inflated correctly and consider preparing an emergency kit for the boot. See ‘Driving Safety’ (above) for a suggested list of contents
- Plan where possible for alternative ways of working, for example in some organisations staff may be able to work from home or an alternative office. Check with you IT provider that remote connections are working
- It may be appropriate to introduce a ‘Winter Driving Policy’ – thought should be given to those days when travel becomes dangerous for alternative working options i.e. Home working on those days.
If you would like to further your skills on how to assess risk in the workplace then our ‘Risk Assessment’ course could be for you.
Here you’ll learn how to assess risk in a practical way using a variety of different methods. You will gain an understanding of the risk assessment process and the confidence to undertake and record assessments themselves.
This list of checks is by no means exhaustive and each environment will have its own dangers and cautions to be aware of.
Taking a few minutes now will help ensure your business continues to run smoothly this winter whilst keeping staff and others safe.
Above all, use your common sense – if something seems potentially dangerous, it probably is, so take action.
If you would like any personalised advice please get in touch with us – 0117 958 2070 or email us.
The Acorn Team