As the weather changes as we go into Autumn and then Winter we need to make a few adjustments to our documentation and to our workplaces.
Making sure your business is a safe place for people to work, shop, or visit is essential. Whether you’re a public-facing high-street retailer, a factory with a growing workforce or your clients are visiting your offices in an industrial estate, there are many hazards you should be looking out for.
Health and safety considerations in your business will change from season to season. While your business should be aware of hazards all year round, there can be more during autumn and winter. During the winter, when temperatures fall and the weather can bring hail, sleet, ice, and snow, you should do what you can to provide the safest conditions for your staff, customers, and visiting clients. You should make sure your health and safety policy is as effective as possible to reduce hazards and prevent accidents and injuries
We can support these changes with you and explain the different hazards and risks that winter can bring, both in and outside your company building.
Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:
- Spotting the potential hazards
- Assessing the risk of them causing an accident
- Taking action to prevent them
- Maybe you carry out seasonal events
If you employ five or more staff, you must record your findings in writing.
1. Carry out/review/update your risk assessment
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a risk assessment is a legal requirement that involves identifying sensible measures to control hazards if you’re an employer, or your work poses a risk to others. You should have already conducted a risk assessment to check the safety of the areas around your business, but it’s wise to conduct an additional one during the winter. This involves:
2. Identify hazards outside your business
These are mainly the result of wet and icy weather. Places where hazards could occur include:
- Company car park and its adjoining road
- Pavement or pathways alongside and around your business
- Shortcuts, like across a grass verge or to a side entrance
- Sloped areas
- Areas constantly in the shade and wet or prone to flooding.
Hazards could include:
- A slippery pathway at your company entrance, frozen over with ice
- Black ice on your company car park
- A build-up of wet leaves on the paths surrounding your offices
- Slippery wet grass where staff take shortcuts
- Unseen hazards in a poorly lit car park
What can you do?
You are not expected to eliminate all risks but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm, including hazards due to winter weather conditions that affect people attending your premises. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk. There are different ways you could tackle hazards like these, from making simple and small changes to carrying out building work.
- Gritting car parks and pathways to prevent icy surfaces
- Removing leaves from pathways
- Placing warning cones around slippery areas
- Fitting signage to stop people taking shortcuts across grass
- Install lighting to ensure areas surrounding your workplace are well lit
- Covering walkways or building slip-resistant pathways
- Fitting a canopy over your company entrance
Actions like these can help keep your staff, customers, and other visitors as safe as possible when approaching or leaving your company premises.
3. Identify hazards inside your business
These can mainly be the result of darker days and colder temperatures. Places where hazards could happen include:
- Entrance areas of your business
- Dark warehouses
- Unlit corridors or stairwells
- Parking areas for deliveries or distribution
Hazards could include:
- Unseen hazards in poorly lit spaces
- Colder working environments
- Wet and slippery floors in corridors and at your building entrance
- Power shortages or pipe damage caused by extreme weather
What can you do?
- Replace lighting or install more lights in poorly lit areas
- Buy or rent mobile heaters for cold office spaces or update your heating system
- Fit non-slippery floors in corridors
- Place absorbent mats or change flooring at company entrances
4. Carry out regular checks
- Check that lighting, power, and heating systems are working properly inside
- Keep an eye on pathways and other areas outside to make sure they’re clear of ice, snow, and leaves
- Appoint a reliable member of staff or your site supervisor to be responsible for checks
5. Fit an indoor and outdoor thermometer
This can help you know when temperatures are very low so you can assess the risk of snow and ice and know when outdoor areas should be gritted. The Workplace Regulations’ Approved Code of Practice states temperatures inside the workplace should normally be at least 16°C. They can be 13°C if a lot of the work involves rigorous physical effort. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements but are for guidance only.
Employers have a legal duty to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace and to determine what reasonable comfort will be for staff in particular circumstances.
6. Talk to your team
One of the best ways to maintain good health and safety standards in your business is to speak to your employees about potential hazards they’ve come across and shadow them during their working day. This can help determine the main walking routes they use in and around your business and ensure you’re aware of all potential hazards. The Health and Safety Executive has additional guidance on keeping your workplace safe during the winter weather. Make sure you have regular staff meetings and have an open-door upolicy so that staff can discuss any concerns they may have with you.