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How cold weather affects workers at heights

The nights are darker and the temperatures have definitely dropped - winter is here! At Oxford Safety, we value the safety of our customers and wanted to share with you the dangers of working in cold weather at heights. Plus, give you some advice so you can help keep your workers safe at heights during the cold months too.


Temperatures

If it’s cold on the ground then you can bet that the temperature will drop even further the higher you go. Don’t trust the outside view from indoors. How many times have we all opened the curtains to see blue sky and even sunshine only to find that once outside our breath is visible in front of us and we’re rushing back inside for the thermals.

Be sure to check the temperatures and be prepared with appropriate winter workwear.


Wind

So if the temperature gets colder the higher we go, what do you think happens to the wind speed? It gets faster. Most weather reports will include a ground level wind speed but this does not factor in those that work at heights.

If you are working with scaffolding you might be tempted to put sheets around it to protect the site. But don’t forget to put holes in the sheet to avoid turning the whole structure into a sail. This is also true of plywood and tarps too.


                                                  Roofwork can be cold and windy

Snow and ice


Snow is visible but ice is not always. Frozen water can often be invisible which can make it treacherous at ground level let alone at height.


It is vital that you carry out a risk assessment during the cold months on each outdoor site and even the exterior to indoor jobs too. Some tasks, such as wetting concrete before cutting could create ice patches the next day. So be sure to check weather forecasts and plan appropriately.


De-ice, where possible including ladders and platforms.


Visibility


We have already mentioned the perils of wind speed and snow but when you combine the two the hazardous conditions become fatal. Visibility becomes near impossible.


When the weather conditions change suddenly at ground level it is easy to evacuate or stop doing tasks. Working at heights when the weather changes dramatically can put lives at risk.


As with all of the possible hazards in colder weather, the answer is to plan, be prepared and check.


Workers well-being


The colder months often see sickness levels rise due to colds and flu which once started seem to pass from one person to the next very quickly.


To ensure your workers wellbeing is covered and to avoid dangers such as frostbite and hyperthermia, you should equip your workers with the appropriate winter workwear to keep them warm and safe.


Advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide some great advice on how to avoid slips and trips in the winter using example conditions - see below.


Wet and decaying leaves


Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can create slip risks in two ways, they hide any hazard that may be on the path or they themselves create a slip risk. Put in place a procedure for removing leaves at regular intervals; you might even consider removing the offending bushes or trees altogether.”


See more advice from the HSE at www.hse.gov.uk


For safety platforms to help you stay safe whilst working at heights browse this Oxford Safety website.