As the winter months begin to roll in, what can employers do to assist with the safety of their employees? From unseen hazards in dimly lit areas to slips and trips on ice, here are some top tips you as an employer can heighten the safety of your workplace during the winter period.
Making sure your premises is a safe place for employees or customers is essential during winter months. Whether you are a large industrial factory or a public-facing retailer located on a small town high street, the winter months can bring seasonal challenges along with many hazards that aren’t around during the summer months.
The law in the UK dictates that all employers must take out Employer’s Liability (EL) insurance with a policy that covers for at least £5,000,000 to cover the cost of employee claims for illness or injury caused by accidents in the workplace as a result of negligence. In 2022, there were approximately 43,000 employer’s liability claims in the UK, many of which could have easily been prevented by following the below discusses steps.
More so in winter, when temperatures fall and the weather can bring sleet, ice, and snow, it is important to make sure your Health and Safety Policy is as effective as possible with a view to reducing potential hazards and accidents.
Carry out a Risk Assessment
Under the management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a risk assessment is a legal requirement that involves identifying sensible measures to control hazards, work activity, or work that poses a risk to others. Risk assessments should be carried out in order to check the safety of areas around your company building, it is recommended to conduct an additional one during the winter months. This could involve spotting potential hazards, assessing the risk that they may bring, and taking action to prevent them.
It is worth noting that if you employ 5 or more staff, you must record your risk assessment in writing.
Identifying hazards outside your business
As ice and generally poorer weather conditions being to kick in, it is important to consider where hazards could occur. Whether this is generally sloped areas, short cuts across grass verges or side entrances to the building, pavements, car parks, areas in the shade or are wet due to flooding should all be considered very carefully.
Potential risks and hazards could come from dim lighting, a build up of autumnal leaves on the paths that create a slip hazard, black ice, or wet grass.
It is expected of all employers that everything as is reasonably practicable must be done to protect employees from harm. This does not mean eliminating all potential hazards, but you must go some way to identifying or at least showing that you have considered matters as the winter months roll in. It is a balancing act between getting the level of risk against measures needed to control the risk especially when considered with the time and financial burdens that carrying out further risk assessments may bring. With that said, it is important to implement the following as part of your firm’s winter practices:-
- Removing all foliage from pathways that may have fallen.
- Placing warning signs and cones around potentially slippy areas.
- Gritting car parks to prevent ice from forming.
- Installing adequate lighting to ensure that all workplace pathways are well lit.
- Consider placing slip-resistant material on sloped pathways.
The above can go a long way in helping keep your staff and customers safe when approaching or leaving the company Premises.
Identifying hazards inside the workplace
These are again, as a result of darker days and plummeting temperatures. Places where accidents could occur include entrance areas of the business, dark or unlit corridors and warehouses, delivery entrances and car parks for distribution.
Much like the potential hazards outside the business, hazards in the business could stem from colder working environments, unseen hazards in poorly lit spaces, power shortages or pipe damage caused by extreme weather, wet or slippery floors as a result of residue being brought in from outside.
In order to ensure the workplace is adequately considered, it is worthwhile replacing lighting or installing brighter lights in poorly lit areas, placing non-slippery floors in corridors, placing absorbent mats or shoe covers at the entrance and exit to your facility, or placing mobile heaters for cold office spaces.
Carry out regular checks
This tip somewhat goes without saying, it is vital to ensure that lighting, power and heating systems are properly working both inside and outside the workplace. Appoint a senior and reliable member of staff to act as the Health and Safety supervisor and to be responsible for the checks. Ensure all checks are recorded and put down on paper.
Ensuring indoor and outdoor thermometers are either fitted or working
As part of your supervisor’s rounds, it is worthwhile noting down what the indoor and outdoor temperature of certain areas of the warehouse or factory are. This can allow decisions to be made as to when outdoor areas should be gritted, or where heaters should be turned on. The Workplace Regulations Approved Code of Practice indicates that temperatures inside the workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees. If the scope of your labour involves rigorous physical effort, 13 degrees will suffice. It is important to point out that these temperatures are not legal requirements but are only inserted for guidance. Employers do have a legal duty to provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace and through talking with staff, must determine what a reasonable comfort for employees will be in winter months. Naturally, the temperature requirements of your facility will change from winter to summer months.
Talk to your team
One of the easiest and most important ways you can convey good Health and Safety practices within the firm is to speak with employees about potential hazards they have come across. This can help determine if any potential hazards are slipping through the cracks. It would also be worthwhile shadowing the supervisor or your employees more generally during their working day. This can help determine any walking routes that are not identified as main routes in the Premises to ensure that all potential hazards along those routes are catered for.
For further information, it is worthwhile reviewing the Health and Safety Executive’s Guidance on keeping your workplace safe during winter weather.