On the way back from a client visit I noticed a postman delivering post wearing shorts, you may ask if there is anything wrong with this, what we need to consider at the time the temperature gauge on the car showed 0 degrees Celsius and was lightly snowing.

What would an employer need to do?

There are several pieces of legislation which would place a legal requirement on an employer. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places a responsibility on an employer to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a responsibility on employers to assess the risk to health of their employees arising out of the task and activity they carry out. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place an obligation to provide a reasonable temperature within the working environment, there is no minimum temperature for outside working, an employer can’t control the outside temperature but would be required to conduct a risk assessment and ensure controls were in place to protect employees health from the potential health affects of cold weather whilst working outside.

Have you consider what the health affects could be to your employees?

  • Frostbite
  • Hypothermia
  • Exacerbate preexisting health conditions
  • Increased colds, flu
  • Joint problems
  • Circulation issues

The Health and Safety Executive have carried out a research report into the effects of thermal environments on the risks associated with manual handling http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr337.pdf which may aid as a useful tool for information when carrying out a risk assessment in regards to temperature of the working environment.

Are you aware of symptoms which may highlight someone is suffering from the effects of work in cold temperatures?

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Severe shivering
  • Change in behaviour
  • Affects to breathing

What can you do to protect employees health from cold weather?

  • Provide welfare facilities for employees to warm up (have you considered remote workers do they have access to suitable facilities)
  • Encourage employees to take on plenty of warm fluids, soup, hot drinks
  • Review rest breaks, do numbers of rest breaks need to be increased in periods of cold weather
  • Can the work be delayed till periods of warmer weather (in regards to a postman this would not be reasonable practicable)
  • Provide information and educate employees on the potential symptoms of health affects from cold weather working
  • Review how employees are monitored, if remote working an employee become unwell due to the temperature how long would it be before anyone became aware
  • Educate employees on appropriate clothing to be worn, able to carry spare change of clothing if likely to get wet
  • Provide PPE to protect employees from the affects of cold weather working such as warm water proof coat, thermal underwear, hat, gloves

Is it just postmen who work outside in cold weather? Ddo you have people who are;

  • Cleaning windows
  • Unloading/loading deliveries
  • Grounds maintenance
  • Security

In reverse in summer months hot temperatures need to be considered and the risk to health assessed and controls put in place, you may think when it’s snowing is to early to consider the risk to hot temperatures, it would be advisable to plan potential controls which may be required so are in place prior to hot weather work taking place. A simple control could be to install a dispenser for sun screen.

If you need assistance assessing the risk of hazards from outside working contact Sky Blue Safety Ltd on 01933 812234