How To Keep Employees Safe In Winter

how to keep employees safe during winter season workplace safety

Winter may have its attractions, but it also brings a fair number of hazards, many of which revolve around the severity of the weather (and, if we are honest, the fact that it is a time of year when a lot of alcohol can be consumed). Here are some tips on how to keep your employees safe in winter. 

Review Your Bad-Weather Policy 

For many employees the key question is whether or not they will be paid if they are unable to make it to work due to severe weather. Legally, the answer is (usually) no, they are not providing the contracted service; therefore they are not entitled to their contracted pay. In practice, it can make sense to pay staff in any case so they do not either try to come into work when it is not safe to do so or stress about missing out on wages, which could create issues further down the line. 

If staff are unable to make it to work because the weather has caused unexpected issues with dependents (e.g. school closures), then you are entitled to require them to take the day as unpaid leave. You may still choose to pay them, but this can be a bit more sensitive as other employees will be working. If, however, you need to shut down the office, then you (usually) have to pay staff as this is your decision. 

Encourage Staff To Call In Sick When They Are Ill 

Even if you suspect that the “illness” is actually a hangover, you probably don’t want semi- unconscious staff in your office, they’re unlikely to work to a decent standard and they could be a health-and-safety threat not just to themselves but to other staff. 

If you are implementing effective absence-monitoring then you should be able to pick up if staff are abusing this, but for the most part, just being realistic about the fact that some people are going to pull the odd “sickie” probably makes more practical sense than doing anything which makes staff feel like they must drag themselves (and their germs) into work no matter what. 

Review Your Health, Safety And Security 

While these are technically separate issues, in practice there is a lot of crossover between them. For example, in winter, days get shorter, which means that staff are more likely to arrive and/or depart during the hours of darkness. This means that they need good lighting in which to do so and this will also help provide security, which, in turn, improves health and safety (by stopping staff from being attacked as they go to and/or from work). 

The big health-and-safety hazard in winter tends to be lack of grip, either from ice or from rain or melting snow dripping off staff and onto walkways as people enter buildings. Externally, it is wise to have a process in place for improving the grip on pavements as need be (even if the local authority should do it for you). Internally, you might want to see if you need to update floor covering in high-footfall areas to prevent it from becoming slippery when it gets wet (which it almost inevitably will). 

Watson and Watson are health and safety consultants, providing a wide range of consultancy services including a competent advisor services and health and safety risk assessments.

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