The clocks have gone back an hour, Bonfire Night has come and gone with a bang, and we are enjoying some balmy, autumnal evenings. However, before we know it, winter will be upon us, so we need to make sure that we are well prepared to work and travel safely.
Site conditions in winter can be subject to some subtle, yet hazardous changes. Lower light levels on cloudy days, along with the nights drawing in can result in potentially dangerous situations. Areas that were brightly lit may now be shadowy and gloomy, both inside and out, and areas and items that are usually clearly visible may be concealed. Ensure that access areas are adequately lit, and keep areas that are darker free from obstruction, at ground level and eye level. Avoid trailing leads, and keep tools and equipment safely stored.
Beautiful as they are, the changing leaves can be dangerous when wet and decaying. Not only can they become slip hazards, but they can also hide other hazards underfoot. Keep pathways clear of leaves, and ensure boots are scraped clean before climbing ladders.
Rainy days can lead to slippery paths, and even more slippery entrance areas, where foot traffic is heavy. Avoid taking short cuts around site, as these can become muddy unmonitored paths.
Although stating the obvious, dress appropriately for cold weather. Layers are better for heat retention, and easier to manage when the temperature rises. Don’t be tempted to discard or modify PPE – for example, wearing a hoodie under a hard-hat will reduce the grip on the head, leaving not only the user open to injury should the hard-hat fall off, but also to anyone who may be working in an area below.
Driving in winter conditions is another aspect to be taken into consideration. Particularly for sites some distance away from home, drivers need to be prepared for different driving conditions. In bad weather, consider whether the journey is actually necessary. Listen to warnings issued, and plan for the return journey too.
If driving is to go ahead, bear in mind that extra time may be required to reach the site due to the weather conditions themselves or simply traffic build up. Don’t take risks, don’t rush.
Our winters can bring a variety of weather conditions, apart from snow and icy roads, all of which carry different hazards to be aware of.
Rain – affects visibility and increases braking distance. Keep a good distance, bearing in mind the weight and size of the van you are in.
Fog – reduce speed, and use headlights and fog lamps if required. Keep a good distance, even if the fog clears, as patchy fog can be deceptive. Keep the windscreen clear both inside and out.
Low sunshine – risk of glare affecting visibility. Reduce speed, and keep the windscreen clear.
Remember to carry out vehicle checks at least weekly – not just a tick-box on the timesheets – on oil, tyres, lights, antifreeze, battery and fuel levels.
“Safety by choice, not by chance”