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Workplace Health and Safety During Autumn and Winter

Broom sweeping up autumn leaves

The leaves on the trees have turned to beautiful oranges, reds and browns and the mornings now have a crispness about them. Autumn is in full swing and winter on its way and whilst this means lovely autumnal walks and the run up to Christmas it signals an increase in risks that employers need to assess and manage to keep their employees and the public safe.

So, we’ve pulled together a short checklist to highlight some of the additional areas to think about when looking at workplace health and safety during the autumn and winter months. Like with much of health and safety a lot of them are fairly obvious and common sense but can often be forgotten about at such a busy time of year:

Remove Fallen Leaves

Whilst the leaves are looking beautiful, once they have fallen and it rains, they get wet, start to decay and become a slip risk whilst also covering potential trip hazards underneath them.

In many buildings such as offices, leaves are often blown and collect in doorways and can cause an obstruction to the premises, so it’s important that these are dealt with regularly to prevent a build-up.

What you can do:

  • Create a procedure to remove fallen leaves regularly.
  • Consider pruning of bushes and trees around entrances to keep fallen leaves to a minimum.

 Improve Outdoor Lighting

The light goes early once the clocks go back in the autumn and this can mean visitors to your premises are arriving in the dusk and employees or Maintenance teams are locking up in the dark. Good outdoor lighting is essential to help individuals see where they are going and avoid hazards, whilst also acting as additional security for individuals so that there are no dark spots around the building where intruders may hide.

For larger premises such as warehouses and manufacturing plants, good lighting is essential as HGVs and vans move about ensuring that there is good visibility keeping pedestrians safe as well as aiding the loading and unloading of items.

What you can do:

  • Ensure there is adequate outdoor lighting in use once the light fades and it is dark.
  • Consider having timer or movement activated lighting so that it is always operational at any time of year.
  • Ensure all outdoor workers wear reflective jackets so they are clearly visible.

 Dealing with Rain and Wet Surfaces

With autumn and winter comes the increased chance of rain. Most surfaces become more slippery when wet and as a result the entrance ways to buildings become the place where most slip accidents happen (according to HSE).

What you can do:

  • Cordon off spaces or discourage employees and visitors from walking across grassed areas which are likely to be more slippery.
  • Create a procedure for managing the increase in water brought into the building with extra matting and /or additional cleaning and mopping.

Use Grit on Pathways when Icy

Once the temperature plummets and paths and roads become icy or snowy it’s important to know how you are going to clear these to reduce slips, trips and falls. You may need to decide to close certain outdoor areas that become more slippery as well as put down extra matting in entrance ways where the increase in water brought in causes the area to become very wet and a slip hazard.

What you can do:

  • Carry out a risk assessment of pathways and areas of your premises determining key areas to be gritted or cordoned off once the temperature drops/ snow falls.
  • Have a procedure for gritting these key areas. This should be done when frost, ice or snow is forecast.
  • Ensure you have enough grit for the winter period on site.
  • Have extra matting to absorb the increase in water brought in by shoes and boots when it snows.

Continue to Try and Reduce COVID Transmissions

And of course, now the new norm, it’s important to be vigilant with COVID prevention procedures that are in place. Whether it’s wiping down door handles and other contact points, keeping staff working at a safe distance from each other or wearing face coverings as people move around the workplace, autumn and winter are seasons to remain extra vigilant.

One of the key factors in reducing the spread of COVID is ventilation and fresh air. This becomes more difficult as the temperature drops outside and keeping windows open for long periods is not practical. However, opening the window for just 10 minutes can make a considerable difference to the risk of COVID transmission (according to HSE).

What you can do:

  • Continue with all COVID procedures you have in place
  • Regularly wipe down contact points
  • Encourage staff to maintain social distancing if practical
  • Wear face coverings as individuals move around the workspace
  • Open windows for 10-minute intervals to let in fresh air

If you need more resources and guidance on COVID related health and safety we have a dedicated COVID resources section.

Practical and Appropriate Health and Safety Advice from Sureteam

As with any area of health and safety, procedures and processes need to be practical and appropriate for your business.  What is sensible for one industry could be overkill for another.

Sureteam’s consultants have experience of working with businesses across a whole range of sectors from offices and leisure centres to manufacturing and construction. Our advice and guidance is always tailored to each individual business based upon the risks that have been assessed.

If you’d like to discuss any of the above with one of our team, or need help to assess the risks of autumn and winter to your business, please contact us via our form or call 01666 503686.