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Winter Risks: Accidents at work

Last week, we looked at the risk of being involved in a slip, trip or fall accident this winter. This week we will be focusing on the risks you may face at work. The shorter daylight hours and winter weather can create hazards for workers, so below is some information about the most vulnerable workers this winter and some advice to potentially help you avoid injury.

Worse Weather on the Way

As the days get colder and darker, you may find yourself getting ready for work and travelling to work while it is still dark outside. Working outside could be particularly dangerous for employees in the colder months, and as such a number of accidents can occur. For instance, injuries may occur if your employer has not provided adequate equipment, or you may end up slipping and falling while working.

Slips Trips & Falls

In winter, visibility is reduced, and roads may be slippery. This increases the chance of bus drivers and lorry drivers losing control of their vehicle whilst at work. If your vehicle is owned by your employer, then it may be their responsibility to ensure it is maintained regularly. Including ensuring that the tyres are road legal, that all the lights work, and that the vehicle has adequate safety measures (for instance, that the seat belts and brakes all work effectively). If you notice that there is a potential issue with your work vehicle, then you should report it to your employer immediately.

Poor Weather Making Construction Sites Hazardous

Construction workers in particular are at risk of getting injured this winter, because of the hazardous environment that they work in. Construction sites are often vulnerable to the elements. Rain, snow, or ice, can make surfaces unpredictable, so it is more likely that people will slip on them.[1] When working in construction environments, your employer should also supply protective equipment to protect the most vulnerable parts of your body should you slip, or objects fall on you. It is your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment, and should have a policy in place for rough weather conditions. It is also advisable to wear shoes with proper grip as these may help to reduce the risk of you slipping at work.

Everyday Jobs

Climbing ladders is a fundamental part of some jobs, including construction jobs, window cleaning and gardening. Climbing a ladder can be scary enough, especially when the ground underneath is unstable. It is important that you make sure your ladder is firmly planted on the ground and that none of the rungs are slippery before climbing it. During the winter months, it may be an idea to ask a friend or colleague to support the ladder as you climb it. Alternatively, you may want to tie it to something else to ensure that it doesn’t fall (for instance, a tree or scaffolding pole).

Circulation Problems made worse in the Cold

Power tools make a lot of jobs easier, however you may have to take extra care in winter. The cold weather may also mean that your heart must work harder to circulate the blood around your body. This combined with the vibrations of power tools could lead to you suffering circulation, nerve or joint problems in the form of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or Vibration White Finger (VWF). Storing tools indoors will also ensure that the handles are not as cold when they are next being used.[2]

Take Extra Care in Wet Weather

Whilst a lot of power tools are cordless, those with cords may present hazards of their own in winter. Rain and snow can disguise cables and make them less visible, hence they present a tripping hazard. They may also cause electrical shocks, due to the wet conditions. To prevent injuries of this type, store your equipment indoors overnight and take care of your tools. Try not to leave power outlets or extension cables lying around, without being covered in something waterproof, as this will prevent electric shocks from occurring and will prevent the electricity from shorting out.

Snow is another Danger Element

When the snow starts to fall, you may be asked by your employer to help shift that snow to make the place safe for others to work or to get into work. This may require a lot of effort and may lead to injuries as a result of the heavy lifting involved. Some things you may want to consider before helping to clear snow:

  • Are you wearing appropriate shoes? Warm shoes with adequate grip, and that are waterproof are recommended, preferably winter boots.
  • Use salt where possible. This will prevent the need to clear the snow using a shovel.
  • Warming up is important.[3] To prevent any muscle strain or back injury due to heavy lifting or continuous muscle usage, you may want to consider warming up for 5-10 minutes beforehand.
  • Try pushing the snow instead of lifting it.[4] This will reduce the strain of carrying the snow, and help to prevent injuries.
  • Clear it early in the day, as fresh snow is easier to move than firm snow which has been walked on.[5]

If you spot anything that you think could be potentially dangerous, whether it is a company car park, outdoor break area, or a commonly used walkway, then you should report it to your manager.

If you are involved in an accident at work this winter, then Smith Jones Solicitors may be able to help. Our many years of experience in accident at work claims allows us to maximise the amount of compensation you may be awarded following an accident. To find out whether you can make a claim for an accident at work, call our specialist team on 0800 195 9590.

 

[1] Designing Buildings Wiki, ‘How to Work Safely on a Construction Site in Winter’ (Published 23rd November 2017) <https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/How_to_work_safely_on_a_construction_site_in_winter>

[2] NHS Choices, Raynaud’s Phnomenon (Under the ‘Vibration White Finger’ section, Published 3rd March 2015) <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/raynauds/causes/>

[3] The Independent, ‘Why some people drop dead while shoveling snow’ (Published 22nd January 2016) <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/why-some-people-drop-dead-while-shoveling-snow-a6827251.html>

[4] The Independent, ‘Why some people drop dead while shoveling snow’ (Published 22nd January 2016) <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/why-some-people-drop-dead-while-shoveling-snow-a6827251.html>

[5] Met Office, ‘Clearing your Path or Driveway – The Snow Code’ <https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/barometer/advice/your-home/the-snow-code>