The winter months can be hard on most of us, but did you know that it can also cause a number of health and safety risks? As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff and the winter months bring with it a whole host of potential hazards. From slipping on ice to uncomfortable temperatures, it can be a nightmare to navigate.
However, there are a number of ways in which you can help protect your employees, customers, clients and visitors during the colder months of the year.
Snow and Ice
It’s essential that the ground surrounding your workplace is safe for individuals. Low temperatures can result in icy conditions on pavements, causing a potential slip hazard. If there is a chance of ice, it is essential that the ground is gritted with salt to help prevent any slips or trips. Be sure to also grit car parks and roads outside your premises to make it safe for drivers too. Having a good supply of grit in your own salt storage boxes will ensure you always have an adequate supply for your premises. For effective distribution, consider using salt spreaders when gritting your outdoor spaces.
If snow is due to fall, you may also need to shovel any large patches from pavements, roads and car parks as this can also become a safety hazard for drivers and pedestrians. Make sure you have a number of snow shovels on hand incase of any heavy snowfall.
Once individuals have entered your premises, they will need to wipe their feet in order to remove any moisture from their footwear caused by water, snow or ice. Wet soles could cause a slip hazard once indoors, especially if you have hard flooring such as vinyl, laminate or tiles. Ensure you limit the risk by placing entrance mats near doors and entry points to your property.
The winter months can provide gruelling temperatures, so it’s important that you ensure your workplace is comfortable for employees. Contrary to popular belief, there is currently no legal minimum or maximum workplace temperature. However, it is essential that you maintain a comfortable working environment for all staff, with the HSE recommending a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius (or 13 degrees Celsius for those carrying out physical work).
Your workplace should contain an adequate heat source. The workplace heaters most suited for your premises will be determined by your business operations. For example, a portable radiator would be suitable for an office, while a propane or infrared heater may be more appropriate for an industrial environment. No matter what type of heat source you have, it is essential that you follow the manufacturer’s user guidelines to prevent any potential hazards or safety risks.
If employees are required to work outdoors during the winter months, then it is vital that they are provided with the appropriate workwear that will help keep them protected from the elements. This is particularly important for industrial and construction workers, who spend long periods of time outdoors. Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE) should be designed to keep employees comfortable, warm and dry. Many workers will also require hi-vis garments to ensure they are easily identifiable during darker conditions, so you may need to provide employees with reflective PPE too.
If your carpark or roadside requires traffic mirrors, these can often become icy or snow covered during colder temperatures, making them ineffective and a potential safety hazard. Consider designs which are weather resistant and offer a thermoactive component, like the Durabel Lite IceFree Stainless Steel Traffic Mirror or a heated traffic mirror. This will ensure the reflection is kept clear, allowing drivers and motorists to identify blind-spot traffic.
During the winter months, coughs, colds and other illnesses can spread rapidly, especially in a small environment, causing employees to take time off for sickness. Not only is this a risk to staff health, but it can also be harmful for your business. The more people who are off sick, the less work is carried out, so it’s not something you can ignore. Although it can be difficult, there are a number of ways in which to help prevent the spread of germs in the workplace.
- Ensure employees wash their hands often by providing plenty of hand sanitiser and washroom supplies.
- If anyone starts to feel unwell, allow them to work from home where possible to prevent passing their illness on to other staff.
- Make sure all surfaces, including door handles and kitchen areas, are thoroughly cleaned with antibacterial. Any area which is frequently touched should be cleaned regularly as these are often the places where germs are most likely to spread. A machine designed to kill germs, such as the Karcher Steam Cleaner is suited for cleaning multiple surfaces within a working environment.
- Consider installing an air purification system. Many models are designed to kill bacteria and help prevent germs from spreading.
- If your employees primarily work from desks, then you may want to consider protective desktop screens. Placing these in between individual’s workspaces could help prevent the spread of germs from one employee to another.
For further information or advice on keeping your premises safe during the winter months, contact our team, who will be able to advise on the best products to suit your business needs.