After a mild start to this winter, temperatures in the UK have plummeted over the past few days, and this is set to continue. This can cause problems for both employers and employees as well.
Exposure to cold environments can put employees at risk of what is known as cold stress. In colder temperatures our bodies lose heat quickly. This can become a serious hazard.
If the body cannot warm itself quickly enough, we can become victim of hypothermia, frostbite, chilblains and, if our feet are cold and wet, trench foot. Working in extreme cold can also cause a lack of concentration, which can lead to a higher risk of accidents.
So if your employees often have wet or damp clothing, wear weather inappropriate clothing, or fail to wear the correct personal protective equipment, then as an employer you need to act. Overexertion, pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or hypothyroidism can also make the situation worse.
So as winter takes hold, as an employer:
Make sure that you know the signs of cold stress.
Provide suitable personal protective equipment suitable for the conditions.
Reduce draughts, add radiant heating where possible.
Add extra breaks in warm areas, and encourage warm meals and drinks.
Monitor those with existing health concerns.
Make sure you also know the signs of cold stress.
Keep an eye on your physical condition and that of colleagues.
Wear the correct clothing for the environment you are working in.
Stay as dry as possible.
Keep spare clothing handy to put on if required.
Take breaks in the warmth.
Take extra care working in winter conditions.