Areas of the UK have recently experienced the worst effects of winter and it seems there may be more to come. Employers who have staff working outdoors, and the emergency services in particular, work with Health and Safety organisations to ensure their employees are safe – so what do they do to protect themselves and what can the rest of us learn from this? First, anybody working outside especially in trades like construction, commercial fishing, delivery work and agriculture is vulnerable. Exposure to freezing and cold temperatures for extended periods of time can in rare circumstances lead to real health problems such as hypothermia and cold water submersion can easily result in death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behaviour. If these signs are observed, call immediately for emergency help.
To prevent things getting to this stage:
- Consider whether environmental and workplace conditions may be dangerous and change work schedules to ensure work is done in the warmest part of the day (midday onwards until dusk)
- Encourage employees to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions, and high visibility clothing so that they can be spotted if they suffer injury.
- Ensure that employees in extremely cold conditions take frequent, short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
- Use the buddy system, making sure staff work in pairs so that one employee can ensure the other is safe
- Provide warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol. Make sure there are warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes on offer for lunch breaks etc.
Glasgow snow by moron noodle