Key areas to consider when working in the winter

Winter may feel like it goes on forever and with still several months to go, Eltham Workwear reveals the key areas to consider when working in the winter. We will also be touching on how these cold conditions can impact your health and safety obligations. Keep reading for more!

The cold can easily affect your ability to concentrate on tasks and can also increase irritability, maybe even inclining people to want to finish a job faster. This may result in the job that they are doing not being completed as thoroughly as normal or even an increased safety risk. Even just slightly cold weather can increase stress and workplace incidents, which is why more risks need to be considered in the winter versus the summer. 

The cold can also decrease manual dexterity, fingertip sensitivity and muscle strength. These effects are only a result of factoring in the cold weather, not the wind chill as well. Although body heat can be raised by simply wearing more layers or working inside, this is not always the case for many people so completely eliminating hazards can become difficult. Key areas to consider while working in winter can be:

Food and water intake 

The less you eat and drink, the more dehydrated you become, which also means your body heat can decrease. Food and liquid intake are essential to maintaining your body heat as the more energy that is applied while working, the more dehydrated and hungry you become. In cold conditions, the body is working harder to stay warm.

Planning and training 

In order to avoid harsh winter conditions, you will need to train employees and plan work, or workload, in advance of the day ahead. One way you can do this is by checking weather reports daily, preferably the night before or the morning of the job. This is so that outside tasks can be done on the best possible day. Additionally, all employees should be trained to recognise the symptoms of cold exposure, such as hypothermia. It is a legal requirement to have a trained first aider on-site in all circumstances, not just cold conditions or winter.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE, designed to protect against many things, can help protect against certain weather conditions, depending on the workwear and climate. Any outer layer of clothing in cold and dark weather (wintery conditions) should be hi-vis, rain and wind-proof. The most obvious would be the thickness and layering of clothing such as polypropylene, polyester or merino layers; the air between the layers can provide better insulation and therefore, warmth. 

You should think about the exposed areas of your body, such as the head, hands and feet and not just your torso. Gloves would be the best choice, however, this could sometimes impact how workers manually work, so another great option to retain heat is to work with insulated handles on tools or heaters, which can blow out hot air. Footwear should be well-padded and made of good-quality, thick material such as leather. Fun fact: A great deal of heat is lost through the head. Therefore, making sure that your head is warm should be just as important as putting on a coat. Although ones’ first choice may be to grab a hard hat, a tightly-fitted beanie, made of polypropylene or merino, will do an even better job of keeping your employees warm.

Duties of an employer

All of the above are basic duties of their employers, however, under strict legalisation (Health & Safety at Work Etc Act 1974) an employer has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. This will include: 

Assessing risk

  • Visibility upon working  
  • Icy or wet conditions
  • Snow days 

Break time

  • Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, when a worker has worked six hours, they are entitled to an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes.  This could be time to hydrate, eat or simply warm up.

Lone working 

  • If your employee is working alone, this may not be a great choice if weather conditions are bad, especially in rural places.
  • If lone-working is necessary, risks will need to be added when weather conditions worsen, such as more regular communication or check-ins and regular location updates.

Here at Eltham Workwear, we can provide you with safety workwear for all weather-permitting conditions. Click here to browse our wide collection of safety workwear.

Get in touch

Eltham Workwear & Safety is a distributor and supplier of quality workwear and PPE to the UK market. Our head office is based in Dartford, with another branch in Portslade, Sussex. We offer both B2C and B2B solutions via our website and our dedicated sales staff. We deliver to London, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hertfordshire, and we use DHL for deliveries to the rest of the UK.

Please get in touch with our friendly team if you need any advice or to speak about how we can help you with safety workwear. For an additional cost, we can even add your logo to all manners of garments and items; from caps and hard hats to fleeces and jackets using various methods of personalisation. Please click here to find out more.