Working alone already presents a range of challenges to people across a range of industry sectors, but when you add winter weather and the idea of Christmas into the mix, lone workers are exposed to a range of new risks that put their health and safety in jeopardy.
By taking on some winter safety tips and conducting regular risk assessments, health and safety managers and employers will be able to identify and mitigate these risks, no matter what industry you operate in.
To support lone workers this winter, we’ve collated a range of tips you can take on board to enhance your safety.
Winter safety tips for health and social care workers
During winter, there can be many challenges that can create risks for both you and your patients or clients. When winter makes road and pavement conditions unmanageable and dangerous, some clients may be left stranded without the essential care and support that they need.
Here are our top tips for health and social care workers:
- Review and update all care plans – ensure that you have adequate time to deliver care and support with extra time considered to combat other winter challenges. Consider allocating clients to people closer to the local area to make sure that staff nurses and support workers are able to deliver care and return home safely at the end of the day.
- Make emergency plans and contingency plans – ensure that emergency style planning is in place to ensure that all care calls are covered if you or your colleagues before ill or affected by poor weather. In the winter months, you should also get your flu-jab to reduce the risk of illness for yourself and others you care for.
- Team up – When working in winter, it’s a good idea to team up if you are usually a lone worker. Having a partner working with you allows you to deliver care quicker and allows back-ups to be planned in the case of an emergency. If you are unable to work in a team, keep your lone worker device handy.
- Keep your car winter ready – ensure that your company car and personal car are both roadworthy and ready for winter driving. To find out how to prepare your car, with tips on creating an emergency car kit, click here.
- Wear the right clothing – wear extra layers under and over your uniform. Consider wearing thermals, hats, gloves, scarves and a waterproof winter jacket. Wearing sturdy and durable shoes with a good grip to help manage slippery and icy pavements is also recommended. To find out more about protective clothing, click here.
Winter safety tips for retail and hospitality workers
Two of the busiest sectors during the winter and festive period is retail and hospitality. With Christmas shopping and festive fun on everyone’s agendas, mixed with tensions surrounding Covid-19 rules and restrictions, retail and hospitality workers, more than ever, will feel the brunt of the risks of working during the festive period.
Here are our top tips to support retail workers.
- Reducing the risk of in-store violence – To help reduce the risk of violence and aggression, it’s important to plan effective training to help all employees diffuse the potential for verbal and physical violence. This training, mixed with regular risk assessments, will allow employees to anticipate and manage aggressive or impatient consumer behaviour.
- Stress and fatigue – The festive period is the busiest time for retail and hospitality workers – with extended shifts, irregular shift patterns, longer working hours and lack of daylight, employees don’t often find the opportunity to get adequate sleep between work shifts. Whilst more pay can entice individuals to put their own health and safety at risk – tired, stressed or fatigued employees can increase the likelihood of other accidents occurring on the shop floor. It’s important to ensure that employees receive adequate breaks and receive at a minimum, 11 hours rest after each shift.
- Crowd management – During the festive period, it’s common for retail settings to drum up crowds. This year, the potential for crowds has hopefully been diminished by Covid-19 guidelines. However, crowds and Covid-19 tensions could potentially lead to more frustration and lead to angry verbal exchanges and even violence in extreme scenarios. When planning for the festive season, consider how you will adequately manage potential crowds and how to diffuse them. Consider hiring extra staff to manage queues better, with extra security to assist retail and hospitality workers when they need it most.
Winter safety tips for marina and ferry workers
At this time of year, lone workers and teams working at sea are at greater risk. Cold sea water temperatures, increased frequency of storm weather, longer and darker hours and the risks associated with ice or frost can be deadly on board an unsteady vessel.
To help stay safe this winter, consider some of our health and safety tips:
- Keep pontoons and decks clear of debris – In winter, pontoons grow moss, algae and lichen and can get very slippery. Decks and car parks surrounding ports, marinas and docks are also common areas for ice and slippery surfaces. Always ensure that these areas of clear of hazards. For more advice on managing and preventing slips, trips and falls, click here.
- Wear a life jacket more frequently – with unpredictable seas and stormy weather, wearing a life jacket on your vessel and near the dock can save your life. With icy and wet conditions, coupled with darker hours, anything can happen.
- Communication is key – Whilst out at sea, communication is key. At this time of year, there are less people around and doors, windows and hatches will be closed – making your calls for help less likely to be heard. Whilst on board and on land, ensure that you carry a lone worker safety device that can withstand remote locations and is waterproof. You can also use a waterproof phone case to raise an alert if no one can hear your call.
- Remember carbon monoxide (CO) – Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. This odourless and colourless gas can cause a lot of harm both inside and outside your boat or vessel. It’s important to install and maintain a CO alarm and stay away from exhaust fumes. If you’re spending long hours inside a cabin, remember to take regular breaks for fresh air by opening windows and getting outside. The symptoms of seasickness and CO poisoning are very similar. To find out more about managing CO and the associated risks, click here.
Winter safety tips for construction workers
In winter, the construction sector doesn’t stop. Construction workers still continue to build and develop major construction projects despite the risks that cold weather brings to the trade. Therefore, it’s extra important to consider the risks of working in cold weather.
- Conduct daily risk assessments and reviews of the jobsite – At the start of each day, you should conduct an inspection of the site to check that all snow, ice and other winter hazards have been removed or treated where workers will likely be passing or working on.
- Mitigate risks against slips, trips and falls – Falls aren’t just for workers on the ground. The winter weather presents major risk for construction workers who use scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs and work platforms at height. Not only do you need to treat the icy ground, you also have to correctly treat work equipment and walkways at height to prevent fatal fall injuries.
- Limit exposure – Working in construction often involves working outdoors. It’s important to re-evaluate work patterns during winter, as employees should not be overexposed to cold weather conditions. To manage the cold weather, construction workers should be provided with regular breaks in warm areas and should work scattered shifts to limit exposure.
- Spot the signs of over exposure – As previously mentioned, the cold weather presents the biggest risk to construction workers due to the nature of the work. It’s important to train construction staff in spotting the signs of overexposure to the cold, as this can lead to hypothermia and frost bite. To find out more about spotting the signs of hypothermia, click here.
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. For legal advice, you should seek independent advice .
As a lone worker, you can be exposed to all kinds of risks during winter. Here’s a range of useful resources you can use to protect yourself this winter.
Free Risk Assessment Toolkit
Unsure of whether your employees are at risk of slips, trips and falls as part of their role? Try out our free risk assessment toolkit today to help identify foreseeable risks.
For an example of how the toolkit can be used, click here.
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