A Guide to Safe Working in Cold Weather
Winter is well and truly here – and with the festive season all but over, workers in the UK are left with cold, dark working days of the early new year. These cold days are dangerous to work in, particularly for those who predominantly work outside. What are some simple safety tips you can adopt to ensure you are working as safely as possible in the cold?
The best and most immediate defence against the risks presented by cold weather relates to your mode of dress. While certain work environments can attempt to heat spaces up to temperatures conducive to health and comfort – whether with air conditions, central heating, or heat lamps – this is not always a possibility. As such, your clothing should meet the demands of the weather.
If you are working outside and with your hands, on a construction site or undertaking outdoor maintenance tasks, PPE work gloves are essential for both mitigating the impact of hand injuries and keeping your extremities warm. Cold weather can reduce motor control, and increase the risk of accidents occurring due to mishandling.
You should also be wearing bulky, padded winter coats where possible, to protect you from the cold and from any potential rain or snowfall. If required to undertake your work safely, as with work gloves, your work will be legally obliged to provide these items at no cost to you.
Food and Drink
But dressing warm is only one part of a much larger equation. There are multiple factors that can influence the level of impact you experience in cold weather, with nourishment being one key example. If you attempt to work in the cold without having eaten well beforehand, your body might find it more difficult to regulate its core temperature, causing you to feel the cold sooner.
Not only this but eating warm food and drinking hot drinks can help you feel more comfortable in your work. Taking a brief break to warm up with a cup of tea can ensure you retain enough energy to complete the day.
Rest and Recuperation
Speaking of breaks, regular and frequent breaks from tasks that expose you to the cold weather are nothing short of necessary for your health. Extended periods of time in the cold are guaranteed to cause discomfort in some form, even with appropriate clothing and PPE for the task at hand. Out of an abundance of caution, you should take care to shelter in warmer, covered areas to allow your extremities to warm back up – and to give you the mental space to properly focus on your work.
As well as adopting safe practices when working in the cold, you should also make safety a priority with regard to your commute to and from work. During this commute, you will be exposed to the same conditions you’ll experience at work and some new risks that could cause harm if realised. Planning is the best route to safety in this regard; know your route to and from work in advance, and take note of any potential hazards such as black ice or blind corners (if driving).