Working outdoors during the winter months can present risk to those who are unprepared. Icy conditions can be extremely hazardous for pedestrians and very challenging for drivers of moving vehicles and plant, working near to water in freezing temperatures requires extra care to ensure that ice patches are not created by work activities, and snow can greatly increase dangers.
If you have employees who work outdoors then you have a duty to consider adverse weather conditions, equally employees have a duty to ensure their own safety and the safety of others through their actions or omissions.
The following tips may help you cope better with whatever the season has to throw at us.
As an employer you should:
- Ensure risk assessments consider controls and actions to be taken during adverse weather.
- Provide employees with all necessary protective clothing, equipment and footwear to protect them from the adverse effects of the environment in which they are working. e.g. thermal or waterproof clothing such as jackets, trousers and gloves.
- Provide and maintain suitable welfare arrangements e.g. providing warmth and a rest from the elements. Allowing somewhere to heat food and make warm drinks.
- Be aware of any staff with existing medical conditions which may be affected by exposure to the adverse weather.
- Identify and agree at what point work should be stopped due to any potential dangers presented by the weather and agree actions to be taken in an emergency.
- Ensure all work at height is pre-planned so that adverse conditions do not present a danger to employees and others.
- Ensure materials etc stored outdoors are secure, if strong winds are forecast. Look to remove materials that are stored at height and ensure all lightweight and loose materials that can easily be picked up by strong winds are lashed or weighted down. Ideally store such materials inside.
- Regularly check weather forecasts and follow and weather warnings.
After adverse weather conditions have subsided you should carry out a thorough inspection of the site before work is allowed to start again.
As an employee taking the following precautions will help protect you and others:
- Ensure all foul and wet weather clothing you have been issued with is readily available and in good condition.
- Stop work when instructed and move to a place of safety.
- Keep spare warm, dry clothing readily available.
- Take regular breaks sheltered away from the elements.
- DO NOT use work equipment outside that is not suitable for use in wet conditions.
- DO NOT use work equipment where weather conditions may affect its safe use or storage.
- Make sure your footwear is in good condition and provides adequate grip.
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