As winter gets under way a lot of tradesmen and women will face new challenges in the form of cold weather and icy conditions. Dealing with the cold is tough and we all have to face the struggle of getting out of those warm beds in dark, cold, miserable mornings.
Those of you that work outside on a regular basis understand the health hazards of exposure to the cold and take sensible precautions but did you know that the risks to health start to increase even in temperatures as high as 10 degrees, especially if conditions are wet and windy.
Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause:
- Regular colds
- Stiff joints
- Frost bite
Hypothermia is particularly dangerous as it is hard to spot and can be easily be passed of as nothing serious until the sufferer collapses. This can prove deadly.
Van drivers should also be aware of the dangers of ice and remember to prepare for the winter with cold weather tyres and spare warm clothes or blankets in case the snow gets so bad you become stranded.
It is a legal responsibility as an employer to ensure workers are properly trained and equipped for the conditions they are exposed to. Procedures must be in place and in outdoor environments risk assessments must be carried out by employers before work goes ahead.
Employers need to consider:
- The amount of time required for a job to be completed in bad conditions and whether the work can be rescheduled for warmer weather
- Can the work be completed indoors
- Can extra workers be employed to reduce exposure to the cold
In extreme weather conditions, all but emergency outdoor work should be stopped. If it is unavoidable then cold and wet weather clothing must be provided.
One man bands should prepare for this and must have the discipline to post-pone work if conditions are too severe. It may be a tough choice but it is the safest course of action.
You may be sheltered from the wind and the rain but the harsher indoor environments like, for example lofts or basements can get particularly cold and give you joint problems in the long term. Wear thermal garments, gloves and layers to combat this.
Gloves should be worn when the temperature drops below 4 degrees for light work or below -7 degrees for heavy work.
Take regular warm up breaks as the cold can seriously affect your judgement, the last thing you want to do is endanger yourself or a customer because you were too cold to think properly.