Top tips for avoiding common health & safety woes in winter

Noel Collins

December 07 2021

Last updated: December 7th, 2021

Health & safety risks increase during the winter months. Severe weather conditions can make it hazardous for employees to drive and access work. Maintaining a good level of health is also difficult.  

As an employer, you owe a duty of care to provide a safe place of work for your employees during winter. Thus, at this time of year, you need to be even more health & safety conscious.

Prevention and preparation, as always, are the best policies when it comes to winter safety. With that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips to help you maintain workplace safety during the dark winter months.

Health and safety hazards at work

Health and safety hazards at work such as slips, trips, and falls are no laughing matter. They’re also more likely to occur during winter. Take the entrance to your premises for example. Is it well-lit? During the winter months, employees will likely be arriving and leaving work when it’s dark, increasing the likelihood of a trip.

Do wet and decaying leaves gather on the route to work? Are footpaths outside your premises gritted? Factoring adverse weather conditions into your risk assessments will ensure relevant precautions are in place to prevent possible accidents.

Guide: Hazard identification techniques

Driving for work

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the health and safety legislation in Ireland, you’ve to ensure that staff who drive for work are fit, competent and capable of handling winter conditions. The easiest way of guaranteeing this is through training. This training is vital because, after all, if an employee suffers an accident while driving for work, the onus ultimately falls on you.

Your duty to provide a safe place of work for your employees includes ensuring work-related journeys are safe. That means that staff who drive are safe and that all vehicles are fit for purpose and roadworthy.  

The risk of a costly road collision is higher during the winter months, so relevant precautions are vital.

Managing sickness absence

Adequate ventilation and appropriate temperatures can help prevent the spread of sicknesses such as colds and flu which quickly spread during the winter months and thrive in colder conditions. The same can be applied to COVID-19, where other precautions such as social distancing and regular cleaning should also be put in place. Distributing hand sanitiser is another simple prevention tip.

But what happens if employees call in sick despite your best efforts?

Well, we all know that sickness absence isn’t uncommon, but it can disrupt the flow of your business. Each sick leave of absence must be handled independently and consistently, and your Employee Absence Management Policy should be relied upon.

If it becomes a case of long-term sickness absence, there is a specific process you should follow.

 

Severe Weather Policy

Ensuring that employees aren’t required to undertake a hazardous journey to work is your responsibility. For instance, public transport may not be in operation. If you still ask employees who depend on public transport to work, they may suffer an accident. If that happens, you face an increased risk of an employee claim.

With the weather often becoming more severe during the winter months, developing your own Severe Weather Policy is recommended. It will confirm what employees should do in severe conditions and how to remain safe.

Staff wellbeing and the benefits of an EAP

Remain aware that employees may need extra support during the winter months.

Think SAD (Stress, Anxiety and Depression), and put an open door policy in place. Any issue an employee comes to you with should be taken seriously. Assure them you will prioritise the issue and do what you can to reduce their stress.

Another option is to consider making an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) available. This will give employees access to a confidential 24/7 helpline, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions, and online physical and mental health assessment tools.

Need help managing your health & safety?

For advice on any health & safety challenges, speak to one of our health and safety consultants today on 0818 923 923.

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