Winter weather considerations for outdoor lone workers
If you are an employer with outdoor lone workers who operate in rural locations you will already understand the risks they face: working outdoors in isolated or hazardous locations and the nature of the work being undertaken typically carry higher risks.
Lone working in rural locations during the winter months, dealing with harsher weather conditions, exacerbates these risks. Below we have compiled a list of winter risks your lone workers may be exposed to so you can consider appropriate measures:
Slips, trips and falls
Slip, trip and fall accidents increase during the winter months due to shorter daylight hours and harsher weather conditions, particularly when there is ice or snow. In their 2019/20 “ Health and safety at work” report the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recorded that these incidents make up 29% of all non-fatal injuries that occur at work and can result in broken bones, bad bruising or spinal injuries.
To help reduce slips, trips and falls HSE recommend that areas should be gritted to make icy surfaces safer to operate on. Employers are also advised to encourage their workers to wear appropriate footwear for winter weather such as boots with grips.
During the winter poor visibility is an issue we are accustomed to and can become complacent about. Days are darker due to reduced daylight hours, which can be compounded by wet and foggy conditions.
Poor visibility can increase the risk of incidents, as HSE reports, just under 20% of work-related deaths were caused by being struck by a moving vehicle. As visibility reduces the probability of such accidents can increase.
If your workers’ activities include operating heavy machinery, HSE recommend increasing the level of outdoor lighting, either fixed or portable, depending on the location they are working in. Workers should also wear hi-vis clothing whilst they work to maximise their visibility.
Lone workers typically travel to site alone and you will need to consider how the winter weather will impact on their daily travel. One of the main risks faced while driving is loss of control in difficult driving conditions.
Planning the trip beforehand will help to anticipate any problems they may encounter, including checking the weather forecast and current conditions, the best route, a thorough vehicle check to ensure the lights, brakes and steering are working, carrying emergency equipment such as a shovel, blanket, food and drink.
If driving in icy or difficult conditions, your lone worker should be familiar with best practices to stay safe including:
- Look well ahead and anticipate potential hazards including patches of ice, heavy rain causing flooding or landslides, high winds causing rock falls, powerlines, trees or fences blown down.
- Keep your speed well down.
- Accelerate, brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of a skid.
Risks and responsibility
Every employer has a duty of care for their workers and it is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure each worker understands how they must manage their personal risks to ensure they return home safely each day.
Creating a sensible approach to health and safety requires sound policies supported by practical actions. We recommend that before the winter you review and update individual risks assessments considering how the changes in weather can impact each of your workers. Regular communication along with additional support and guidance is vital to ensuring safety over the winter months.
How Trackplot can help
Our purpose at Trackplot is to help lone workers operating in rural, isolated, and hazardous locations to keep safe. We have designed our satellite-based lone worker monitoring solution specifically for outdoor lone workers, who are typically exposed to environmental hazards, enabling them to keep in touch wherever they are and in all weather conditions. Let us help you ensure your lone workers come home safely from work each day.