Every year we await the inevitable winter weather, but always seem surprised when it arrives bringing the UK to a standstill.
Recently, temperatures have been frequently dropping below freezing with snow and frosty winds and if previous years are anything to go by then we may have weeks of it still to come!
Snow and ice are a photographer’s dream and a walk in the fresh, crisp snow can be idyllic, but it can prove a major health and safety hazard for businesses if they are not well prepared…
Slips, trips and falls at work
A major cause of injury, especially in snow, is slipping – but there are precautions you can put in place to reduce this risk.
- Ensure your workplace allows for safe access and egress for all employees through treatment of routes on your site. This may include the gritting of icy footpaths. Ensure this is monitored throughout the working day and re-treat when necessary.
- Ensure that your employees wear appropriate footwear, look to highlight the risk of unsuitable footwear like heels when walking into or out of work
- Provide shoe grips as part of your PPE provisions
- Block off any areas that are deemed too dangerous and suggest safer, alternate routes
Commuting/driving to work when it snows
The roads can become a very dangerous place when it snows and, as an employer, you must ensure that employees are not travelling to work in treacherous conditions that could put their safety at risk.
When it’s unsafe to drive into work, and there is no alternative method, then, if possible, offer your employees the option to work from home or close the office for a day or two, asking staff to either take holiday.
Obviously the above may not be practical depending on your business. In industries such as care, employers have been known in extreme circumstances to have staff living on site for the duration of the severest of weather conditions or helping to assess the most suitable form of transport available. This may be a car share in a 4×4 vehicle, or using public transport.
For logistic companies, planning routes and providing more time for deliveries and drop offs should be given consideration, so not to encourage excessive speeds. At the very least, ensure that they are aware of the safe driving techniques in winter weather so that anyone who does have to drive is extra cautious when doing so.
Remote working in the winter
Zoom meetings going viral due to lawyers with filters to make them look like cats, children rearranging furniture whilst a parent is propagating a message of safety, or the council meeting going into meltdown – all seem hilarious until we liken it to our own situation and the reality that is the current world we live in.
Homeworking has become the necessary evil due to school closures and government guidance, so it is imperative that employees provide the right support. This is only heightened at this time of inclement weather.
The first consideration has been to ensure that the employee receives the correct and necessary provision of equipment.
Support and understanding in regard the change in situation should also be considered to encapsulate the changes through school closures and other household members’ changes in circumstances which affect your employee. Offering flexibility in working hours is a good example of employee support and management.
Mental health is a topic gaining greater credibility and support. Mental health awareness and first aid should be considered a part of general health and safety now and this does not stop when the employee leaves the office. With a duty of care to ensure the health and wellbeing of all employees, at this difficult time especially, priority in consideration should be given to the effects of mental ill health and the impact that can have on the workforce.
Additionally, employees do have the right to dependant leave, which is unpaid time off to deal with emergency situations such as school closures or interruption to childcare provision.
Winter-related illness in the workplace
Along with the usual upturn in cold and flu, this year we are contending with the threat of Covid-19 and the potential of highly contagious new strains.
Stay home, stay safe, saves lives (or a variation on the theme) is the message here. The spread of illnesses in the workplace will not only exacerbate the pain and suffering of families and communities, potentially decimate the workforce and ability to function and maintain profitability, but can also be a RIDDOR reportable event (in the case of Covid).
If someone in the workplace has an illness, the best way to stop it from spreading is to encourage them to stay home until they are feeling better.
However, this may not always be a safe-proof plan and non-symptomatic people may still be present, so it is important to ensure you keep to your Covid-19 standards and maintain good safety practices including;
- Keep the workplace clean so that germs are less likely to spread
- Maintain safe working distances between employees
- Ensure that the premises are kept ventilated
- Educate workers on how to protect themselves i.e. washing their hands, being aware of all safe practices
- Provide antibacterial gel in the workplace and other cleaning products
If you would like some further support with health and safety or staffing issues during the winter period, then give us a call on 0845 2626 260.