With the official end of summer rapidly approaching on 22 September, the weather has certainly turned more autumnal in recent weeks. Forecasters are predicting a wet and windy weekend ahead with heavy rain and thunderstorms hitting much of the UK. If Britain lives up to its reputation for cold, wet winters, this is unlikely to be the last we see of the rain.
If your employees work regularly outdoors throughout the winter, do you have safe working practices in place for wet weather conditions? In this blog, we’ll take a look at your legal responsibilities and provide some practical steps for keeping your workers safe.
There is no legislation preventing outdoor working in wet weather, but employers are responsible for ensuring that practices, policies and procedures are in place to keep their people safe. This includes providing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), training on safe working practices and adequate supervision for employees working in a hazardous environment.
Rainfall during the winter months is often accompanied by failing light and low temperatures. There is no legal minimum temperature for workplaces but government guidelines recommend that indoor workplaces are kept to at least 16 degrees Celsius or 13 degrees Celsius if strenuous work is being undertaken. There is no specific guidance for outdoor temperatures. However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations 1999 require employers to assess risk in the workplace and put systems in place to address any hazards identified. This includes assessing work areas in different weather and lighting conditions.
The potential dangers of wet weather working will vary between workplaces.
Wet and slippery conditions underfoot, combined with less daylight in winter can lead to an increase in the number of accidents and injuries. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 29 per cent of all non-fatal injuries are due to slips, trips and falls, making it the most common cause of workplace injury.
During the winter when temperatures drop, there may also be an increased risk of cold stress, a serious condition that occurs when the body can no longer maintain its normal temperature. Poor visibility as the number of daylight hours fall, also contributes to a rise in accidents and injury.
Appropriate safe working practices should be implemented to address the specific hazards of a particular work under different conditions, as identified in a risk assessment.
Some practical steps you can take to keep outdoor workers safe are:
Employers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of their workers. It is your responsibility to conduct thorough workplace risk assessments in any conditions which you expect your people to perform in.