The cold is here
With temperatures quickly dropping and reports of roads blocked with snow. I thought it might be sensible to look at the associated risks that come with the cold.
Please remember that it is important to remember that when you’re as cold as ice, extra consideration should be given to health and safety.
It’s hard enough getting out in the cold to defrost the car in the morning, but with a large proportion of people undertaking some or all of their working day outdoors, it is important to remember the increased risks from the decreased temperature.
We also have 2 recent HSE cases for you to look at and think about:
- The Lundy Company Limited and Justin Courtney Ford have both been fined today after a self-employed worker fell more than three metres through a fragile roof
- Birmingham Airport Limited has been fined after a six-year-old boy became trapped in a baggage conveyor.
We hope you learn from the mistakes of others that are highlighted in our weekly newsletters and, as a result, do not have similar accidents at your workplace.
The cold is here
I know I keep mentioning the Duty of Care aspect of legislation in these newsletters, but I cannot place enough importance on the fact that YOU MUST ensure the safety of your staff, whilst they undertake work for you.
Yes, and ice not only means it is cold, but also it is slippery. We have all seen or experienced slips on the ice, and ice can be a big risk in outdoor working environments like construction sites. It can, of course, also effect the walk from your car park to your office door.
Farmers need to break the ice off the water containers in the fields, often more than once a day, for their livestock to be able to drink.
It is important to take the added hazard and increased risk into account, and put in place the appropriate control measures needed.
Gritting, clearing and salting walkways regularly when the temperature drops should be an important part of winter site management.
But Remember it is not just people that can slip on icy surfaces, and vehicle routes also need assessing. The local authorities may well grit the main roads but they probably will not do the minor roads and definitely won’t be gritting your office car park.
But you have a duty to your staff and any visitors, so make sure you consider this.
Snow is falling, all around me?
Not yet, maybe. But with the cold weather arriving, could it be only a matter of time?
Temporary roofs, scaffold sheeting and other temporary shields can be used to protect your site and working platforms from the elements, and help you comply with the legal requirement to provide a safe place of work.
But what about clearing the snow?
Sadly too many people have had heart attacks when clearing snow, quite simply because they were not fit enough to “get stuck in”. So BEFORE you grab a shovel or give some of your employees a shovel, ask yourself “Am I/is he or she medically fit enough to clear snow?” “Is there any need to clear it in the first place?” and if it needs clearing “Are there any mechanical aids I can get to ease the work?”
You’re as cold as ice
It’s not just safety risks to think about in the cold, but also the health of the workers.
Wrap up warm! Clothing and PPE must be suitable for protection against the cold particularly in cold windy, icy or snowy conditions. I have seen workers out wearing PPE provided by their employer, that quite simply is not adequate. They may be ok in a quick summer shower but definitely NOT good enough in winter conditions. Of course sometimes the employer does supply suitable clothing but the employee doesn’t wear it because “I left it back home mate” or “I’m alright, I don’t feel the cold” – Read next section!
Welfare and rest facilities need to provide a warm place of rest to allow the workforce to get a break from the cold.
Companies have a responsibility to provide adequate welfare facilities:
- In winter it is important to ensure that water supplies do not freeze and that any gas heaters provided have adequate ventilation – Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer.
- Where appropriate provision should be made for drying rooms for wet clothing; and hot water for washing is even more important than usual.
- Portable chemical toilets should only be used to support workers for short duration.
- People who are exposed to vibration from power tools should improve their blood circulation by keeping warm and dry, where necessary wearing gloves, a hat, waterproofs and heating pads if available. Stopping smoking improves blood circulation, as does massaging and exercising fingers during work breaks.’
Frequent breaks should be encouraged to give workers regular opportunities to warm through, and change gloves, socks and other clothing if it has become wet.
Warm drinks and snacks should be available, particularly warm liquids such as soups, teas, coffees and hot chocolates.
The cold never bothered me anyway?
If workers show signs of shivering and loss of coordination, not only does this, in itself, increase the risk of accidents, but also shows they are being affected by the cold.
Raise awareness of the symptoms of cold stress and the early signs of hypothermia.
Slurred speech, memory loss and cold pale or blue skin are also indicators that quick action is needed.
So, do not let employees or your work mates, work out in the cold without the necessary warm clothing. They may say “I’m alright, I don’t feel the cold” but the truth is their bodies DO feel the cold and it can kill them or at least make them very ill.
For those working outdoors, the winter months bring additional challenges to keeping safe. Cold weather and shorter periods of daylight mean there is more potential for accidents to happen. With a little planning, and common sense, these can be avoided.
Operators of construction plant, such as diggers, tele-handlers, cranes etc. must ensure they regularly clean their windows so they can safely see all around. This should be combined with constant use of mirrors and a Banksman where appropriate. Lights on all vehicles should be cleaned regularly to ensure vehicles are visible at all times, and vehicle depots should be well lit to avoid slip and trip hazards – workplace transport accidents account for many of the deaths and injuries we investigate every year.
Farms and other outdoor enterprises must always ensure they have a suitable, robust procedure in place to make sure lone workers are safe. In winter this is even more vital – if a worker fell and broke a leg in a remote location in the dark, how would they summon help? And who would be responsible for ensuring they had returned home safely at the end of the day? Recent cases, including the tragic death of a gamekeeper have highlighted the vital importance of ensuring lone workers are protected and have the communications they need.
Our message this week is to ensure you do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure the safety and welfare of your staff, make sure you complete adequate risk assessments, put a procedure in place to check on any lone workers, THINK carefully – ‘is it necessary for the job to be done’.
Obviously there will be lots of jobs that will require your staff to ‘brave the elements’; you just have to do your bit to ensure they are safe.
If you would like further help on this topic or if you have any topic you would like us to cover in this newsletter please contact us by phone 01458 253682, or email.
Taunton & Somerset CPD Group at The Lawns Taunton
These start up again in January and we hope to list the first of these next week
If you are not on the CPD Seminar mailing list but would like to be please drop Martin an email and he will deal with your request.
Contact Details: email or call 07585623817 or 01458 253682
During November we are providing two “In House” training days for staff at the British Museum in Bloomsbury London.
As well as six training days for ABP Foods at their Abattoir/Food processing plant in Langport
You too can enjoy the benefits of superior accredited training courses as enjoyed by these companies and others.
We will soon be listing our next batch of “Open” courses which we will again be running at the Taunton Racecourse which is beautifully situated in the heart of the South Somerset countryside. The unique atmosphere and panoramic views across the racecourse to the Blackdown Hills, along with their excellent buffet lunches, make the racecourse the perfect location for successful learning.
Also remember, as shown above, we are still available for running “In House” courses and are looking to add new training courses to our list.
If you have any questions about these courses or any other training or would like us to run a particular course for you, call Jon Wilkins of the Wilkins Safety Group on 01458 253682 or email him.