Preparing for winter – is your workplace ready?
With winter well and truly here, now is the perfect time for some last-minute checks to make sure your business is ready for the months ahead.
Getting to work
You need to make sure your staff can enter and leave work safely. Are there wet leaves or mud that could create trip hazards for staff and customers? If so you need to remove these at regular intervals. As the days get shorter it’s important to consider the lighting around your workplace, particularly the exits, entrances and car park areas. Will employees be able to see potential hazards and does the lack of light create a safety risk? If this is the case, you must consider installing more or brighter lights.
In icy weather when paths become slippery, gritting paths can be a sensible solution. Don’t forget salt grit doesn’t work instantly so it’s important to put grit down early before employees arrive or the night before, remember rain will wash it away too! Never use hot water – this will eventually freeze and create a dangerous sheet of ice.
It’s important that once your employees are safely in work, water and mud isn’t walked into the premises and creates another slip hazard.
Consider whether you have enough suitable mats to soak up any water on people’s shoes, are there enough mops or paper towels available to clean up? Don’t forget a wet floor sign isn’t a fix all. Consider where staff will hang wet coats and umbrellas, they need be left to dry off without dripping water over floors and walkways.
Workplace temperature in winter
Temperature in the workplace is often a contentious issue, some complain they are too hot whilst others say they are too cold. The Regulations that deal specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces states that
‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’
The application of the Regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.
What is reasonable is open to interpretation but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C (or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort).
If your employees work outdoors, you need to ensure they are not affected by the cold weather this includes:
- Issuing personal protective equipment;
- Provide mobile facilities for warming up and drinking warm fluids;
- Frequent rest breaks;
- Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress;
- Consider delaying the work – can it be undertaken at warmer times of the year without compromising on safety?
Winter is also a hazardous time to drive. You can read more about hazardous driving here.
This article covers the basic principles you may need to consider – your specific workplace assessments will help you decide the controls you need to have in place.