It’s hard to believe, but at the time of writing this blog, there is snow in Queensland! Although in the Sunny State, we rarely have freezing days, there are fresh hazards and risks that come from working in winter, particularly outdoors, that are worth a quick reminder.
As always, it’s important that you start your health and safety review by:
1- Identifying the hazard.
2- Assessing the risk.
3- Eliminate or reduce the risk.
4- Review the control strategies.
Eliminating exposure to the cold is always the best option, however is not always possible. If you can’t completely eliminate the cold, there’s a few areas we suggest you review.
One of the most common, simple hazards in winter is cold extremities, particularly fingers, which can result in tools more likely to be dropped, or items slipping through fingers. Depending on the task at hand, this may not always be a significant hazard. Reminding staff to take extra care is important, as is providing areas to warm up regularly.
When working in the cold, it’s common for people to forget to stay hydrated. Providing warm drinks is a great solution for keeping the team feeling warm and alert, however maintaining adequate water intake is still important in the cooler months.
Each winter, we hear a story about someone being injured or worse, because of unsafe heating practices, such as using gas bottles indoors, or in a poorly ventilated space. It’s important for employers and managers to ensure unsafe practices for heating are not permitted in their workplace. (As a side note, safe transportation of gas bottles is also extremely important.)
In Queensland, this often means adding a jumper for a couple of hours in the morning, however in other states, or in other roles, providing or recommending appropriate workwear to keep out the cold weather is imperative. If high-vis clothing is a requirement at you workplace, this should also extend to any jumpers or jackets, even if they are only worn for a few hours.
Safe Work Australia reminds us that:
prolonged exposure to cold can result in hypothermia, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Your workplace must have measures in place manage the risks to your health and safety cause by exposure to cold weather, including:
- providing heating, for example cab heaters
- providing protection, such as a hut or the cabin of a vehicle
- providing warm and waterproof clothing, and
- enabling workers who are not used to working in cold conditions to acclimatise.
Hypothermia doesn’t only happen in the Himalayas. If you’re unsure how to manage your workforce needs, have a chat to our work Workplace Partners about how we can help.
*This is general information only and doesn’t take your specific business needs into account.