Winter is Coming
Many businesses are aware of the need to conduct a risk assessment of the hazards associated with their business undertakings. Most review their risk assessment periodically, Â either following a serious accident or near miss, changes to the business undertaking or a change in organisation structure. However, it should also be noted the significant changes that can happen with the change of seasons. Winter presents a whole new set of challenges to managing risk in the workplace.
The change in daylight of the most obvious of the changes this time of year. This can affect employees working indoor and outdoors. Indoors there may be a need for overhead lighting to be on for longer periods or even specific task lighting for some workers. For those working outside it may be necessary to install permanent lighting on fixed sites, and mobile tower lighting for those working on temporary sites. It may also be necessary to add additional lighting to already lit areas, where shadows are cast by other structures.
Inclement weather causes some of the hazards we often forget about. For those working outside or operating vehicles or machinery, this can have a significant effect. Some items to consider and mitigate against include:
- Working in cold weather - Will workers need additional PPE in the form of warm, waterproof clothing? Can workers be rotated so they are not constantly exposed to inclement weather? Are there adequate facilities for workers to enable them to warm up during their breaks? Cold weather also increases the risk of developing hand arm vibration syndrome. What can you do to manage this?
- Slippery surfaces due to rain, snow or ice - Do footpaths need gritting? Road stopping distances are doubles in wet conditions. Wet tools can also lead to loosened grips on tools when working, which could cause injury. Are vehicles properly maintained and suitable for use?
- Windscreen glare at sunrise and sunset - Are windscreens clear of debris and dirt?
- Ice on windscreens - Are policies and procedures in place to ensure drivers do not proceed to drive until all windows are clear of ice and frost, and windows fully demisted.
- High winds - Are any heavy lifting operations due to take place with cranes? If so they will need to be rescheduled due to high winds. Are any workers working at height who may need to be stood down or reassigned other tasks?
One of the best ways to manage the risks of working outside is to ensure good project planning so that where possible, outdoor works are avoided during the worst of the winter months. If we remove the hazards we have performed the best method of control.
Have a think about your workplace and the measures you currently have in place to mitigate hazards associated with the winter months. Have all of the hazards been identified? Are the mitigation measures adequate? Start thinking about what could be done better to reduce the risk of injury due to winter weather conditions.
If you need help identifying your risks with the changes in season, would like help to review your risk assessments or even to develop a risk assessment, contact us to find out how we can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01843 6399711