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Health and safety risks in cold weather

Published: 13 January 2021 - Victoria White

It should be no surprise that winter arrives each year, with its colder temperatures, less hospitable weather and, with it, a new set of health and safety risks.

As with most health and safety topics, planning and preparing for prevention are the best tools to make sure that your workforce are safe. Here ProGARM highlights some of the biggest health and safety risks in winter weather and what you can do about them.

SLIPS AND TRIPS

As the weather turns wetter and icier, slips and trips become more of a hazard. Simple steps you can take to reduce the risk for your employees include gritting, absorbent matts to collect moisture off shoes as people go into buildings and clearing leaves off paths.

HAZARDOUS DRIVING CONDITIONS

The winter brings with it low sun, more fog, ice and even snow, all of which can make driving conditions much more hazardous. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) produces a handy Safer Journey Planner with an approach for employers as well as tips for employees.

HEART ATTACKS, BLOOD CLOTS AND STROKES

According to the British Heart Foundation, the risk of a heart attack or stroke doubles when the body is exposed to the cold for a prolonged period of time. Blood clots and strokes are also more likely because the heart has to work harder to keep the body warm.

COUGHS, COLDS AND FLU

Often spread through air conditioning, coughs, colds and flu are obviously more of a risk during colder months, leading to short periods of sickness for most people. Bugs hang around on door handles and on surfaces in communal areas, so regularly washing your hands is even more important to prevent the spread of these annoying illnesses.

Flu is a major killer of vulnerable people, so consider a voluntary flu vaccination programme at your workplace and encourage members of your staff in at-risk groups such as those with suppressed immune systems, pregnant women, those with kidney disease and diabetes to have their flu jab.

DEHYDRATION

It might come as a surprise that dehydration is as much of a risk in winter as in summer. This is because people typically drink less because the cold supresses thirst. But the layering of clothes to keep out the cold can make sweating worse, leading to dehydration. Ensure your staff are aware of the need to drink regularly and often, and look for PPE which will minimise sweating despite the layers needed to do the job.

Check out our range of thermal and arc flash-resistant base layers, including tops and leggings, a helmet liner and a snood for keeping your neck warm when working outdoors. We’ve even developed compression socks which will not only keep feet warm in the winter weather, but reduce tiredness in the legs by improving circulation.

Source: Industrial Compliance


 
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