As the temperature drops day by day it is only a matter of time before we start to see heavy snowfall in the UK and, if last year is anything to go by, it could cause a major disruption to our working lives.
Unlike other countries around the world that have regular heavy snowfall and systems in place to cope with it, we aren’t quite used to the adverse weather, so it can be dangerous, and employers should take the appropriate steps to protect their employees during severe weather conditions.
You have a duty of care to your employees which means ensuring that you have done everything you can to keep them safe from hazards including snow and ice.
Sometimes the best option is to close the office altogether. Though it may not be suitable for all workplaces or workers, most are able to carry out their work from home or take the day as unpaid leave especially if they have children who are likely to face school closures.
The weather forecast will usually give you 48 hours’ notice when heavy snow is expected so you can prepare in advance for any potential business closure. You should let your employees know that should it be deemed high risk to travel into work then you can work from home or take the day as unpaid leave. This is something that should be included in a written ‘Adverse Weather Policy’ and clearly communicated to all staff and they must inform you, the morning of, as to whether they are working remotely.
Even once the snow has cleared, you need to be wary of icy conditions which are just as much, if not more, of a hazard and could leave many employees hesitant to travel into work.
It is important to always put your employee’s safety first and not make assumptions about their travel conditions.
Those who can make the journey to and from work should be informed of the best driving practices in the more severe weather conditions.
- Driving slowly and cautiously
- Making sure that you have essentials int eh car such as water, a phone charger, a torch, blanket etc.
- Ensuring there is substantial fuel in the car before setting off on your journey
- Planning out the safest (not necessarily quickest) route before you set off
Slips, Trips and Falls
It is also the employer’s responsibility to reduce the risk of any slips or falls from snow or ice on the workplace premises including the car park.
You should conduct a risk assessment of the premises and act accordingly such as clearing the snow, gritting the car park and entryway and displaying signage in slippery areas.
Failure to do so could render you liable to pay compensation should there be an accident.
Managing Office Temperature
There is a minimum workplace temperature of 16°C, or 13°C where there is considerable physical activity, to prevent your staff from getting ill.
The most obvious way of ensuring this is met is to keep the heating turned up wherever possible but you can also relax your dress code and encourage employees to wear jumpers, make hot drinks for the office, and allow employees to wear blankets or use hot bottles.
One thing you can’t avoid this time of year are coughs, colds and the flu especially those of your employees who have young children.
You are bound to find that at least 90% of your workforce catches sickness over the next three months and to avoid these things from spreading you should try to encourage employees to work from home where possible.
If this is not an option for everyone then there are other precautions that you can put in place such as isolating ill members of staff so they are a little distance from their colleagues, making sure that the workplace is wiped down and making tissues and hand sanitiser available for everyone in the workplace.
PPE For Snow
Some employee’s have to walk as part of their job such as domiciliary care workers; therefore, they may need Personal Protective Equipment i.e. footwear with snow/ice grips. In this case, you will need to provide your employees with the appropriate PPE to ensure that they are safe when on the move.
If you would like some advice and support when it comes to winter safety in the workplace then our Health and Safety Consultants are here to help. We can assist you in creating an Adverse Weather Policy and point you in the direction of appropriate training for your staff such as Slips, Trips and Falls and Safe Driving. For a complimentary consultation and a quote for our services, just call us today on 0845 2626 260