As winter begins, so does the prospect of severe weather. With this, there are a number of potential risks and hazards that can have a serious impact on your workplace. Keep reading for an overview of some of the considerations that you as an employer must take to winter-proof your workplace.
Think Safe, Act Smart
Your first step in preparing your workplace for winter should be to complete a thorough risk assessment of your premises, both indoor and outdoor areas. Take note of areas that could be prone to weather-related hazards, and consider whether any areas could be slip, trip, or fall hazards due to heavy rain or ice. Bear in mind that risks could be inherent to a particular area, or they may arise due to the type of work being completed in that area.
Communicate with employees regarding any of these potential risks and the measures you are taking to prevent them, such as placing safety signage around the site or prohibiting access to particularly hazardous areas. Also, advise them of the safety measures they should be taking, such as exercising increased vigilance during periods of adverse weather, and wearing suitable clothing and footwear.
Find out about our risk assessment consultancy service here.
Beware of Flooding
We may not get a white Christmas, but it’s almost certain that there will be plenty of rain. If your workplace is in an area that is at risk of flooding, it’s important to make the premises as resistant as possible, and to have the tools necessary to deal with a flood should it occur.
For workplaces that are liable to flood, it is important to have a plan in place. This should include information such as a list of emergency contacts and escape routes. Also, ensure you have the necessary equipment or materials that you may need in the event of a flood, for example plywood or plastic sheeting.
For more information on managing flood risks, go to flooding.ie.
Get Ready for Wintry Temperatures
Working outside in extreme temperatures presents multiple serious risks. For example, risk of slips is increased with weather conditions such as snow and ice, a particularly important concern for those working at height. Employers must also provide welfare facilities for outdoor workers to protect them against the cold, such as an area where they can go to warm up or change out of wet clothes. (Source)
Temperature is also a consideration for indoor workers. According to the Health and Safety Authority’s Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations, employers must ensure that a minimum temperature of 17.5 degrees Celsius is achieved after the first hour of work for rooms in which sedentary office workers are situated. For other sedentary work wherein most of the work is done while sitting, a minimum temperature of 16 degrees is required. (Source)
Stock Up on Supplies
Extreme weather may prevent the distribution of supplies, which can be a major complication, especially in the case of time-sensitive supplies. To mitigate this risk, assess your stock levels and consider increasing levels in case of a disruption, and consult with your suppliers regarding the measures they are taking to prepare. You may also need to find alternative means of transport. Also, consider the points whereby suppliers will need to access the building, and ensure that safety measures are taken, for example gritting driveways. (Source)
Steer Clear of Dangerous Roads
Weather conditions such as heavy rain, ice, or fog can present increased risks for road travel. To minimise risk, consider a remote working option if feasible. If staff members cannot work on site due to hazardous road conditions, consider any implications this may have on regular business procedures.
If you have customers visiting your premises, make sure you have reviewed any touchpoints they may have, e.g. entrances etc., and take necessary precautions to ensure they are not compromised by adverse weather. If the weather gets particularly severe, customers may not be able to attend on site. You can prepare for this by devising alternative ways for your customers to engage with the business, such as video calls or online commerce. (Source)
Any employees that operate vehicles as part of their role must also take extra precautions, such as reducing their speed and allowing extra time for journeys. All vehicles should be supplied with emergency equipment. They should also be checked to ensure that they are in working order, for example indicators and lights being clean and working, that there is sufficient oil in the vehicle, that windscreen wipers are working properly, and that tires have sufficient pressure. (Source)
Provide for People with Disabilities
Take into account any additional requirements of employees with disabilities; some individuals’ disabilities may be affected by colder temperatures. For example, individuals with reduced mobility may need to wear extra clothing on areas of the body that may be particularly affected by the cold, e.g. hands and feet. If there is a ramp providing access to the workplace, employers should disperse grit or salt if there is ice. (Source)
Please note that this is simply an overview of some of the considerations you may need to take to prepare your workplace for the winter. If you would like a personal consultation regarding preparing your workplace for the winter, or any other health and safety concerns, feel free to get in touch with our team on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call the Cork office on 021 4210331, or the Dublin office on 01 8385595.