Winter weather tips to protect your employees

While snow can be beautiful and fun to play in, frosty conditions and extreme temperatures cause treacherous roads, slipping hazards, and can have a major impact on our health. This means it also impacts your employees’ health and work environment. Use the tips below to help keep your workers safe and healthy.

Take the sting out of the winter season and start preparing early. We have listed some tips below.

1. Slippery roads and surfaces

  • Prevent accidents: combat ice and snow by spreading salt on slippery paths, car parks, access roads and other surfaces to provide traction.
  • Prepare drivers for winter conditions by enrolling them in a skid control training course and informing them about road risks.
  • Get company vehicles ready for winter: encourage your employees to get the profile depth of their car tyres checked (or get winter tyres fitted) as well as the brakes and shock absorbers (greater stopping distance on slippery roads). It is also important to get the windscreen washer fluid and antifreeze topped up, and check the windscreen wipers and replace them if needed. And don’t forget about jump starters to revive frozen car batteries.

2. Chaos on the road

Traffic jams are a recurring problem during winter weather, often resulting in frustrated drivers arriving at work late or not at all. Depending on the type of work your employees do, you can implement certain solutions to avoid these kinds of situations.  

  • Teleworking is one possible solution for employees who can do some or all of their work from home.  
  • If telework isn’t an option and some of your workers really want to avoid having to drive on icy roads, then you can remind them that they can take a day off if they want to.
  • If your workers are coming in to work but the roads resemble an Olympic ice skating rink, then you can let them know that alternative commuting options are available via public transport. Although buses and trains may run late due to winter road conditions, they are usually better prepared for these extreme situations.

3. Cold work environments

When cold weather strikes, temperatures can drop significantly. Freezing temperatures due to climatological conditions – not to be confused with extreme cold caused by technological events – can lead to physical discomfort and health issues, particularly for outdoor workers or people operating in unheated areas. In addition to reducing the body’s immunity, extreme cold can affect people’s body temperature or even their core temperature (the temperature of the internal environment of the body, including organs). Hypothermia sets in when the core body temperature drops below 35°C, which in some cases can lead to heart failure and death. Extreme cold can also cause frostbite injuries and Raynaud's disease.

For workers operating in cold environments, make sure you provide:    

  • adequate personal protection equipment to protect the head, hands, feet and the rest of the body against freezing temperatures;
  • plenty of breaks, during which workers can warm up with a hot drink;
  • wind breaks at worksites to protect against squally weather bringing snow, hail, and sleet;
  • heated indoor areas where workers can warm up during breaks;
  • heating units where workers can hang out wet clothes to dry.