In colder times, winter is the most important season for is responsible for ensuring the safety of outdoor workers. Being out in the freezing cold without the right gear is dangerous and can lead to all sorts of nasty illnesses from chilblains and frostbite through to hypothermia and even trench foot (WebMD).
According to The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, employers must supply their workers with protective equipment that is fit for purpose and properly maintained, for free. That means it’s your responsibility to provide your workers with equipment to keep them warm, safe from the elements, and protected from on-site hazards.
In this article, we will walk you through what you need to take into consideration to ensure your workers are protected this winter.
Upgrade those boots
You won’t be surprised to hear that slip and trip accidents increase during autumn and winter (HSE), largely due to less light, increased hazards and obstructions, and more wet and slippery surfaces. For this reason, you want to ensure your workers have the correct footwear. While most workers will already be wearing protective boots, in winter these must be upgraded to ones with slip resistance and, ideally, self-cleaning tread. You also need to ensure that winter boots are waterproof and insulated with thermal lining, so they stay warm and protected from the elements.
Heating the head
Keeping heads, necks, and ears protected is paramount for both worker safety and wellbeing. Cold weather helmet liners and face warmers are amust have for ice cold windy conditions, keeping workers warm and safe while working. Without this thermal layer for their hard hats, workers may decide to wear their own warmer alternatives that offer less protection, opening themselves up to head injuries. For a full range of winter head protection, you can visit Zoro — we really like the winter liners and face warmers.
Get good gloves
Protecting the extremities is important in the winter, especially for manual workers that require the use of their hands on a regular basis. You will need to consider how your site operates and what jobs your workers are undertaking to assess what protection they need. For certain tasks, workers should already be equipped with the appropriate gloves, such as to protect against mechanical or chemical hazards. But in cold and wet conditions, you need to make sure these offer both thermal protection and water resistance too.
Protect the core
Maintaining a solid core temperature is integral to both your workers wellbeing and their productivity during winter. Prolonged exposure to cold weather will decrease the body’s heat stores which can ultimately lead to hypothermia and affect brain function. It is your responsibility to ensure that workers are wearing enough layers and the correct protective clothing. It is paramount that workers stay dry at all times, as wet clothing will increase feelings of cold. Having waterproof jackets with thermal protection on hand is a great way to adapt to changing temperatures throughout the work day.
See and be seen
Reduced daylight hours and the chance of sudden rainfall, strongwinds, and heavy snowfall meats that visibility for workers can sometimes get very low. A lack of visibility can massively increase the chance of accidents so high visibility jackets and trousers are essential to ensure maximum safety. On particularly snowy days, reflected sunlight can decrease visibility and ultimately cause snow blindness. To stop this from happening, eye protection should be on hand to protect against UV rays.
Protecting your workers should be your number one priority at all times, especially during winter. Keep this guide in mind when you are undertaking your risk assessment and you’ll be best placed to tackle the season.