Working in winter brings plenty of challenges.
The short days means that many workers are stuck inside during the limited daylight hours, which can have a significant impact on mental health.
Meanwhile, other professionals are working outside in potentially cold, wet, snowy and adverse weather conditions. As well as being miserable, these conditions can pose significant health and safety risks to workers.
In this guide, we’ll look at top tips for how employers should be keeping workers safe during the colder months. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about working during winter.
- Can an employer make you work in bad weather?
- Is there a low-temperature limit for work?
- At what temperature can an employee refuse to work?
If your job role involves working outside during the winter, or in cold temperatures, our serious injury solicitor, Kam Singh, has shared his top tips on how employers can keep their workers safe during the winter period.
Employers should bear in mind that some uniforms aren’t suitable all year round. Providing employees – especially those who work outdoors - with warm and insulated clothing such as fleeces, long-sleeved shirts, hats and gloves will not only help keep workers warm and comfortable but should increase productivity.
Gritting entrances and exits doesn’t take a lot of effort or money on an employer’s behalf, but unfortunately not all do this and, as a result, it can cause employees to suffer injury. Our former client, Roy Gardiner, knows this all too well after slipping on ice at work and being left with a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.
As well as gritting pavements when it’s cold, employers should also make sure that any wet or decaying leaves are regularly cleared away, and pathways should be well-lit to limit the risk of accidents on darker days.
With people taking annual leave at this time of year, the Christmas period can see some employees working alone.
The risk with this is that should an individual suffer an accident when at work, they may not be able to help themselves or receive help for a longer period of time. And if the accident is serious, this could be potentially life-threatening.
Ideally, there should always be more than one member of staff present, including a first-aider, to treat any injuries that may occur. If that is not possible, then systems should be put in place to make sure that the employee can get in touch with someone at a moment’s notice, enabling them to report what’s happened and get the care they need.
It’s important to check your company’s handbook to see if your employer has an adverse weather policy in place for its employees. If your employer doesn’t have a policy in place, you should ask what the regulations are for working in adverse weather conditions. Some employers might take a flexible approach and ask you to work from home, swap shifts or work overtime to make up for lost time.
If you are unsure whether it’s safe to travel to work in bad weather conditions, you should contact your boss to see if they expect you travel to work.
The law states that employers should ensure a “reasonable” temperature for staff to work in. Guidance in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 suggests that this should be no lower than 16 degrees Celsius. If a job involves rigorous physical effort, this is advised to drop to 13 degrees Celsius.
Parts of the UK are likely to see temperatures drop below freezing, so employers need to be aware of their own workplace conditions to ensure that their staff aren’t put at risk of getting ill. Employers must stick to health and safety law by keeping the temperature at a comfortable level. If your workplace temperature isn’t comfortable, or if your working conditions are unsafe and you aren’t given the appropriate equipment to protect you, then you should speak to your manager about your concerns.