As temperatures drop below freezing and the weather conditions become increasingly treacherous, business owners need to consider the risks entailed for their employees. This is especially true for companies who complete the bulk of their work outdoors. But before managers can put safety measures in place, they need to know what the main hazards of working outdoors in the winter are. And so, to provide some clarity on this matter, here are some of the risks that you need to account for:

1.) Slipping Over

Cold weather causes ice to form on the ground, which can put your workers at risk of slipping over and hurting themselves. Furthermore, if your employees are using heavy equipment or driving vehicles, these could spin out of control on the ice. It pretty much goes without saying how dangerous this can be. As such, business owners should look at hiring gritting companies if their staff work outside at all. Road gritting contractors will arrive ahead of time, laying down salt or grit to melt the ice and prevent it from re-forming. There are many trusted names in this business, including Gritting Works who help service the NHS. You’ll notice that they also offer services for snow clearance to help ensure the site can be worked on throughout the day.

2.) Frostbite

Frostbite is caused by exposure to extremely cold weather conditions or through contact with freezing equipment, like metal tools. It most commonly affects your face, ears, fingers and toes. Frostbite will freeze the fluids in your bodily tissue, damaging the blood vessels and causing clotting. In the most severe cases, people have needed amputation to remove the damaged tissue. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for business owners to provide their workers with the safety equipment they need to prevent frostbite during the wintertime. This includes thermal clothing (like socks or gloves) for their extremities. Employers should also educate their workers on the signs of frostbite and what some of its risk factors might be. For example, damp clothing makes a person much more susceptible to developing frostbite.

3.) Hypothermia

Hypothermia is when the body is no longer able to maintain its core temperature and so it will start to find alternative ways to preserve and generate warmth. For example, the blood circulation to your extremities will cut off and you might start shivering (to create internal heat). Severe cases of hypothermia can be fatal, whilst mild cases can cause irrational behaviour and incoordination, which also poses a major risk to your workers. As such, employers need to be aware of hypothermia and do what they can to prevent it. This includes providing your staff with thermal clothing to remain warm. Once again, training them on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia can also be helpful. Finally, avoid making them work in cold and wet weather. Listen to your employees if they are complaining about being cold and remove them from the situation.

These are some of the main risks involved with working outdoors during the wintertime. Employers should do their utmost to prevent them from happening.

Ella Woodward, contributing writer