Working outside in cold weather

As the thermometer hits negative temperatures, Mark Littlejohns advises employers on how to protect their employees against adverse effects of winter working.

Working outdoors in cold weather can have a serious impact on your workers’ health. While there is no legal minimum temperature for working outside, employers have a duty of care to protect their employees against adverse effects of winter working.

As with other health and safety risks, the best way to reduce the hazards related to working outside in cold weather is elimination. As an employer, you should consider whether the work can be delayed.

If outdoor working cannot be avoided, here are a few steps you should take to reduce the risks where possible:

  • carry out risk assessments to consider the impact of rain, snow and ice – the ‘wind chill factor’ should also be taken into consideration
  • reduce the time spent working outside where possible
  • introduce more frequent rest breaks allowing time to warm up and reduce the effects of the cold weather
  • provide mobile facilities for warming up
  • encourage drinking of warm fluids such as soup or other hot drinks
  • make sure appropriate PPE has been provided – hands and feet are particularly vulnerable to the cold and layering clothes is one of the most effective methods to keep warm
  • provide training to staff to recognise symptoms of cold stress and associated conditions

For more information about how we can help, please contact Mark Littlejohns at m.littlejohns@capital-people.co.uk