With severe weather warnings in Ireland this week caused by Storm Emma a.k.a the “Beast from the East”, we are encouraging employers to consider the health & safety of their employees. Our Health & Safety Experts offer their advice on steps you need to follow to ensure the safety of workers who are exposed to severe weather conditions. 

Snow and bad weather affecting business every year, it is sensible that employers introduce an adverse weather policy that will help to avoid confusion and ensure employees know what is expected of them in these situations.

If your employees are exposed to the weather during their normal working duties, you will need to carry out a thorough risk assessment to ensure that they are protected from new hazards caused by the weather.

The hazards associated with driving for work increase greatly in winter. It brings with it darker, shorter days and bad weather such as rain, hail, fog, and snow.

Employers can’t directly control roadway conditions, however, they can promote and influence safe driving behaviour and actions by their employees.

Employers are required to conduct risk assessments for their drivers, taking into account the hazards present and have control measures in place.

For example, prepare your drivers for severe weather conditions by communicating the need for:

Driving Preparation

  • Check the weather forecast, road conditions and consider alternative routes.
  • Allow extra time to clear the windows properly and carry an ice-scraper and de-icer.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is prepared for the journey and has anti-freeze in it.
  • Make sure all your lights work and that you use them to see, be seen and be safe.
  • Check that tyre pressures are correct and check that tyres have at least 3 mm of tread.
  • Make sure you have sufficient windscreen washer fluid at winter strength in the reservoir.
  • Check that you have enough fuel for your journey with a reserve in case you get held up along the way. In remote areas consider carrying a spare can of fuel.
  • It is also sensible to have a map, warning triangle, and first aid kit if you have to take regular medication make sure you have it with you.

Safe Driving

  • Reduce speed in bad weather.
  • Increase stopping distances. Driving in snow and ice increases stopping distances by 10 times.
  • Avoid sudden acceleration and braking.
  • Use dipped headlights in poor conditions.
  • Take regular breaks; even if you are running late don’t ignore the fact that driving in bad weather conditions will increase fatigue.
  • Listen to travel bulletins.

Breakdown Procedures

  • Make sure that your vehicle will not block access (abandoned vehicles can obstruct emergency services, grit spreaders, and snow ploughs and prolong traffic hold-ups).
  • Where possible remain in your vehicle unless there is a safety risk.
  • Maintain your circulation by moving about.
  • Use the engine to keep warm, but ensure the exhaust can disperse.

Weather Preparation

Foggy Conditions

  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights and rear fog-lamps.
  • Use forward fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced.

Winter Sun

  • Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. If it is below the visor level use sunglasses.

Flooded Areas

  • If you have to drive through floods stay in first gear and keep the engine speed as high as is safely possible. Avoid stalling.
  • Drive slowly and avoid areas where the water is deepest, usually near the kerb.
  • Remember to test your brakes when you have passed the flooded area before you drive at normal speed.

Slippery Roads

  • Be aware that ice forms more easily on hilly and exposed roads, roads under and over bridges and roads shaded by trees and buildings.
  • If you hit ice and feel the vehicle start to slide or skid immediately take your foot off the accelerator, don’t be tempted to brake (which will increase your risk of spinning) and steer gently into the slide.
  • To reduce the risk further make sure you are very smooth when you accelerate, brake or turn.

If you have any questions in relation to severe weather conditions, please contact our expert employment law advisors on the 24 Hour Advice Service on 1890 252 923