After what seemed like an unseasonably warm October, November came in with a bite, and there is no denying that ‘winter is coming’. While there might not be any ‘White Walkers’ on the UK horizon, the colder days and darker nights can pose some real health and safety problems. Whether you have an office-based workforce, or a team out in the field, now is the time to take precautions to keep them safe this winter.
Winter H&S Hazards
Winter happens every year; it’s not exactly an unprecedented phenomenon, but it’s precisely because of this that it’s easy to become complacent. Each business faces its own unique challenges, but here are some areas worth considering:
- Office Ambience. As an employer, you are legally obliged to provide a workplace temperature of at least 16° Celsius, unless ‘rigorous physical effort’ is involved, when the minimum required temperature drops to 13°C. Being either too hot or too cold not only decreases morale, but also decreases productivity. Intelligent ‘climate-controlled’ office heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can help with this.
The same precautions need to be taken with lighting. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an established medical condition. Triggered by the lower light levels, people are left feeling tired and depressed, affecting productivity. Opening blinds and letting as much natural light into your work place, and replacing regular lightbulbs with daylight bulbs can help.
- Coughs and Sneezes. Absenteeism sky-rockets in winter, but this may be exacerbated by your sickness policy. If your staff feel pressurised to come into work while unwell it could domino through the team, ultimately damaging productivity far more than if the original patient had stayed at home for longer.
- Slips and Trips. Ice isn’t the only culprit for winter bumps and bruises, so while you’re ordering your supply of grit, think about how you can deal with slippery wet leaves near your entranceway, and how you can prevent accumulated wet-shoe water from causing a hazard indoors.
- Outside Workers. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been mandatory for outdoor workers since 1992, but winter brings additional needs and raises additional problems which aren’t always obvious. How do you keep the hands of someone who needs complete manual dexterity warm? How do you keep someone who is physically active dry, without risking them overheating? Planning ahead so you don’t have to make rushed decisions is the best way to ensure that your team remain well, and productivity remains high.
With absenteeism now believed to cost the UK £18 billion per year, making a small effort to keep your team healthy and happy could give your business the competitive edge.