Season’s greetings from The Health & Safety Service Limited!

With its dark night’s drawing in and Christmas round the corner, winter time can bring with it a whole host of different hazards, both at home and in the workplace. Below are just a few examples with some simple solutions we can all do to ensure we stay safe this winter.

Light (or lack of it!)
It’s getting to the point now where we probably don’t get to see much sunlight. It’s depressingly dark outside when we get up in the morning and it seems even darker when we leave work in the evenings.

During this time of year it’s so important to make sure that any outside lights around your workplace, including car parks, are in fully working order and sufficient enough to provide enough light for employees and visitors to see where they are going. Remember, lurking in the darkness could be that patch of ice or a puddle just waiting to be found by an unsuspecting employee. No one wants to spend their time filling out accident forms and writing up investigation reports – where you’ll probably come to the conclusion that there was not enough sufficient lighting anyway! There could also be obstacles such as raised kerbs or drains that would otherwise be seen in the light of day.

Simple checks can be made to ensure that all bulbs are working and replaced if need be. If they are set to a timer then they may need adjusting to stay on later in the mornings and come on earlier in the day.

Slips, Trips and Falls

According to statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) slips, trips and fall are the most common types of incidents that occur in our workplace, and if we take in to account falls from height then it is also responsible for the most deaths caused whilst at work. Pretty grim, I know.

Slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere at work, and at any time of the year – but likelihood of these happening increases during the winter months. I mean, it’s Christmas! How do you put up your decorations around the office? Stand on tables? Chairs? Somebody else’s shoulders?…

How about getting in to and out of your place of work when the mornings are frosty and ice has set on the pavements? There may be a great opportunity to get £250 from You’ve Been Framed, but then that employee suffers a severe back injury and is off for weeks, months or they may never be able to return to work. Suddenly the £250 doesn’t seem worth it.

There used to be a myth that we weren’t allowed to grit paths/walkways in icy conditions as we would then be sued in the unfortunate event that someone fell over. In an approve code of practice published by the HSE to help businesses comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations it states, and I quote ‘Arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow and ice. This may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs’

So, as long as you are taking steps to eliminate or reduce the hazard, in this case the icy pathway leading to your place of work then you will be fine. Just make sure it’s done properly – and that employees are wearing suitable footwear.

Winter Driving

Driving will play an integral role in almost every single business. For example: delivery of materials, delivering your goods or services, employees and/or customers getting to your premises. So it’s important that steps are taken. According to the Department of Transport Road Accident Statistics the number of incidents caused while driving on wet road conditions increases by 267% in winter.

If employees are being asked to spend a lot of time on the road then a driving policy is a must. Here you can identify the guidelines and rules you have put in place to ensure everybody’s safety – and this should also include winter driving.

Planning routes
This has been made so much easier with satellite navigation systems and route planners found on websites that rhyme with ‘boogle’, where all the hard work is done for you. They are usually on the ball with road closures and estimated travelling times taking in to account traffic and congestion.

Time
Allow extra time to travel, and do not rush. It’s better to get there in one piece than not at all. It’s mostly likely that people will be travelling at slower speeds than normal in adverse weather conditions – and right so.

Communication
Once times have been agreed then ensure the driver has means of ‘checking in’ by providing a mobile phone (just make sure they have parked in a safety place and switched the ignition off first). They should also be aware of the procedure for contacting the breakdown service in case they need them. An emergency kit may also be valuable if the car breaks down – a blanket, something to eat or drink first aid kit and hazard warning triangle, hi-visibility coat and a torch.

Car checks
Ensure the car is ready for the journey. Tyre pressure and conditions, windscreen wiper and radiator fluid (with anti-freeze) is topped up, all lights are working, windscreen and wipers are ok. It may also be worth investing in winter tyres. They provide better grip and can reduce stopping distances by around 10% in icy and cold conditions when compared to normal tyres

Driving
In severe weather conditions try to avoid driving unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you really must then make sure you give enough space to the car in front of you (in some cases up to TEN CAR LENGTHS), give plenty of time to reduce your speed before coming to junctions, roundabouts and corners to avoid skidding or spinning when braking. Use dipped headlights if visibility is reduced or fog lights if you can’t see further than 100m in front (just remember to turn them off when visibility improves)

What we have talked about is just the…. ahem…. tip of the iceberg! We could literally go on for days about helping keep you and your employees’ safe this winter, or any time of year for that matter. But we usually find that a cup of coffee will keep us quiet for a little while! If you would like any information or advice on anything to do with health and safety then why not give either myself or Gary a call on 0845 163 4444 or e-mail us on info@thehss.co.uk. We would love to hear from you. Otherwise, have a safe Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Tony Finazzi, The Health & Safety Service Limited