Adverse Weather and Work at Height
Although spring is on its way and we’ve seen a little improvement in the weather here in the UK over the past few weeks, we seem to be revising the worst of the winter weather! This is not great news for roofing industry workers as bad weather means harsher and more dangerous working conditions. With falls from height the most common accident in reported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), taking into consideration additional risks caused by severe weather is essential. Cold conditions and adverse weather, poor visibility and high winds bring with them extra risks. Here are a few recommendations that can be used on a daily basis to reduce the dangers.
- Carry out a visual inspection of the work environment. Overnight temperatures drop quickly and affect the work environment the following day, so a visual inspection before commencement of work each day is necessary to ensure that it’s safe enough for work to go ahead.
- Check the weather forecast on a daily basis and make a habit of checking actual weather conditions and outside temperatures several times each day. This will allow you to estimate how severe working conditions are and respond with extra safety measures (or in some cases, suspending work altogether), when conditions become hazardous.
- Update your pre-work procedures to ensure that employees are prepared for harsher weather conditions. Low temperatures have a negative effect on the body, leading to fatigue and mistakes. Make sure employees wear specialise equipment for cold temperatures and that they wear layers that are effective in keeping them warm. Make sure employees have eaten an adequate breakfast (food is fuel) and that they can take regular breaks to top up with more food and hot drinks.
- Use pre-use checklists for all personal protective equipment (PPE) and fall protection equipment. Cold weather conditions, along with high winds and icy temperatures, can affect the safety and stability of fall protection equipment (for example, ice and snow may cause components to freeze).
- Make sure all personnel are aware of site-specific emergency procedures if an incident were to occur. It’s vital that any workers who are operating in high risk areas fully understand these plans and procedures and are adequately trained and competent to carry out a rescue if necessary. Make sure that all workers regularly attend refresher training courses
- Take into consideration how the structure of a building could impact employees working at height during winter weather. For example, gutters which are not kept clear or debris or ice may overflow onto the roof space and cause a slip hazard for workers.
Taking the extra time to check site conditions during adverse weather events will not only save you money in the long run, it could also save lives.