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Protecting yourself from bad weather at work

The weather can affect an individual’s work output and ultimately their health and safety. A cautionary approach is necessary to ensure good work practices in challenging weather conditions. For work indoors, the law doesn’t state a minimum temperature, however it should be at least 16 degrees Celsius. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 say the temperature “shall be reasonable”. Also, the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place responsibilities on employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their workers. If there is a requirement to operate at a lower temperature, for example, in chilled foods production, then protective gear must be worn. A definitive figure cannot be given for working indoors because of variations in radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity.

Hot weather
Although a sunny day is a welcome surprise for most of us, for those who work outdoors it can get very uncomfortable. To avoid UV radiation and burning one should cover up and wear loose clothing. One should check their skin regularly and wear sunscreens. ‘Heat stress’ is what can occur when the body cannot control its inner temperature. The body then increases the blood flow to the skin’s surface and sweats. Where there is a risk of heat stress, a risk assessment must be carried out. When doing this, one should consider the work rate, the working climate and worker clothing and respiratory protective equipment. When outdoors one should keep in the shade, rehydrate regularly and take frequent breaks.

Cold weather
If left unchecked, working in cold environments can pose unnecessary cold stress on workers. When working outdoors in cold weather, workers may need to use personal protective equipment. The working hours should incorporate frequent rest breaks and warm liquid intake. To reduce slips on ice, frost or snow, a weather risk assessment may need to be carried out in areas that pose a risk. Warning cones and grit should be used. Gritting should be done on walk areas that are likely to be damp or wet with temperatures below freezing. When working in low temperatures, compliance with British/European Standards ensures one is working to the minimum standard expected. All insulating gloves and protective must be to British/European Standards.

Strong wind
When working outdoors and there is a threat of strong winds one should stop work at places where there is a risk of falling objects. Scaffolding and materials should be secured. Workers should be able to evacuate to a safe shelter to avoid exposure to strong winds. One should clear of windows in case of breakage of glass. One should not work at height or perform lifting to higher levels.

Lightening and persistent rain
If there is a risk of lightening, workers should stay away from metal pipes and cables. Metal objects should be removed from the body. Workers should not continue working around water or exposed areas. One should not stay under lampposts, trees or work poles. One should not use plugged in power tools; battery alternatives should be considered or the work delayed to a later date. There is always a risk of electric shock or electrocution if there is leakage of current from wet electrical equipment. If there is persistent rain one should not stay near steep slopes, culverts or shelter in drainage pipes to avoid the danger of flooding. Work should only be resumed work when flooded water has been drained away.

Sources   labour.gov    hse website

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