Occupational health and safety in winter

Owning to the fact that snowy weather conditions are quite rare in most regions of England, a sudden drop in temperature and appearance of snowfall can come as quite unexpected for some of crews working outdoor within the construction industry; roadworks or utility companies.

Lack of experience of new workforce and the lack of clear safety operations that should be put in place over the course of each outdoor project, can result in site crews working in unhealthy or unsafe conditions.

This does not only apply to cases where ill-maintained equipment (owning to icing or rusting of mental components) poses a severe health and safety hazard to staff who work using the given machinery; or are working in a close distance of the machinery.

PPE provision guidelines provided by the government in Britain

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Act published in 1992, stresses the importance of adequate working equipment for site crews operating outdoors during cold winter months.

Follow the link to access full resources: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg174.pdf

Winter safety provision for winter contractors

For companies that only operate seasonally and want to make the most of their wintertime-only contracts, adequate provision of personal protective equipment is not something that can be omitted – in most cases, however, these businesses are well-aware of the importance of ensuring their workforce operates in safe conditions.

Winter contractors do not try to cut corners, as any failure in providing safety equipment that is fit for the purpose which is then followed by an accident, can result in the company losing profitable contracts and subsequently going out of business for the high season.

Workers from the following industries usually need to face the highest risk levels: construction and development, snow clearing companies, winter maintenance contractors, agriculture, fishing and maritime.

Adequate provision of safety equipment in winter

Providing adequate winter equipment sometimes needs to be a little bit more thought through. One of the best sources for a successful recognition of specific requirements of outdoor crews is to engage the workforce themselves.

An elicitation of requirement of staff working in cold conditions can help employers acquire the full picture, and identify direct needs that emerge from hands-on experience.

Protective clothing used once the temperature drops below 0 Celsius usually involves thick gloves – while they protect a worker’s hands from cold, winter gloves can seriously impede the ability to namely perform thorough dexterous tasks in the field and use mobile touch screens.

Another crucial aspect of winter safety PPE provision is providing suitable feet protection, not only from the outside cold; heavy duty footwear should come with adequate grip to the paving in order to prevent slip-related accidents on slippery walkways where ice has accumulated on the ground. Additionally, waterproof jackets should be supplied.

While clearing snow off the premises, it should be made sure the excess is piled up on a designated area, where it does not obscure the view for drivers of vehicles and operators of heavy-duty machinery. All access roads should be gritted and salted.

Cold-induced illnesses amongst workforce

In the extreme cases, prolonged exposure to adversely low temperatures can cause serious cold-related illnesses amongst workforce.

Imperative occupational precautions need to be put in place to mitigate the risks of hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. Working long hours in extreme temperatures without adequate PPE and heated shelter or in poorly insulated rooms can also cause less severe (but more difficult to diagnose) long-term problems with blood circulation.

Adverse weather conditions in winter do not only involve temperature dropping decisively below the freezing point; in Great Britain, unfavourable weather often forces outdoor workers to endure prolonged periods of wet and gusty winds.

In this weather, heat will leave human body very quickly, especially if no insulated rooms are supplied on site, for the crew to rest and dry their outdoor workwear.

Occupational health & safety provision in winter- guidelines for employers and managers

For the wellbeing of outdoor crews and third parties that may be affected by unforeseen cold-related accidents, it is every employer’s duty to:

  • Make sure their employees learn to identify safety hazards of working in cold and wet weather and know how to recognise symptoms of cold-related illnesses (a professional training on cold-related injuries should be carried out)
  • Provide best possible PPE equipment
  • Encourage the staff to use all PPE equipment provided
  • Make it possible for staff working in extreme conditions to take frequent breaks and rest in insulated and properly heated welfare shelters
  • If only possible, schedule work for the warmest hours of the day, allowing the workforce to stay in during heavy rain or snowfall
  • Ensure staff regularly consume high-calorie meals and drink warm beverages rich in sugar
  • Company policy should never allow any one of the crew who exhibits symptoms of hypothermia (such as fatigue, uncontrollable shivering, confusion, clumsy movements and clear lack of dexterity) to continue working on the site without seeking medical attention first.


Read more: See how your business can benefit from our range of winter maintenance services: http://www.ukgritting.co.uk/news-article/the-benefits-of-our-gritting-services-for-businesses/


UK Gritting is a CHAS-accredited and Safe Contractor approved winter maintenance company operating across Great Britain. We deliver complete winter solutions: road and car park gritting services, commercial snow clearing, grit bin hire and pothole repairs for various sectors.