Roofers - The Risks of Cold Weather and How to Avoid Them
We’ve certainly been experiencing some severe weather here in the UK with seemingly one named storm flying in hot on the heels of the last one! The snow and rain has caused all sorts of chaos across the UK, preventing people from getting to work, schools closing and, in some cases, preventing people from working if they can get to work! Most of the UK’s workforce works indoors and any interruption to business has been caused by staff being unable to get there. However, for those who work outside, as is the case for many in the construction industry and in the roofing sector in particular, the adverse weather adds to the dangers in an already risky business. Today we’re going to take a look at the responsibility of employers of those who are expected to work out of doors.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Act 1992 means that employers have a legal requirement to supply free, CE-marked protective equipment that is fit for purpose and properly maintained. Employers must also provide training to demonstrate how to use such equipment correctly and to assess whether the equipment fits correctly, is cross-compatible and decreases overall risk. An employer also has a legal obligation to:
- Provide mobile facilities for warming up and encourage workers to drink hot drinks like tea, hot chocolate and coffee.
- Initiate more rest breaks frequently.
- Certify that protective equipment is appropriate for employees’ needs.
- Teach workers about the early symptoms of cold stress.
- Delay work until the weather improves if necessary.
Cold stress conditions range in seriousness and can include the following conditions:
- CHILBLAINS – are caused by exposure to the cold for long periods and by poor circulation, resulting in permanent damage to the capillary beds from repeated exposure to the cold. The symptoms are redness and itching of the affected areas which are usually cheeks, ears, fingers and toes. Treatment involves gently warming the skin (away from strong heat sources) and avoiding scratching affected areas – anti-inflammatory creams can reduce the itching.
- FROSTBITE – this occurs in freezing conditions or when handling frozen foods, metal or wet materials. The symptoms are a numbness and paleness in the affected areas, usually the nose, ears, fingers and toes. Frostbite should be treated by keeping warm indoors but not exposing any affected parts to a fire or heaters as this can escalate the damage leading, in some cases to amputation.
- HYPOTHERMIA – this is a serious and life-threatening conditions which occurs when the body temperature falls too low. Early symptoms include persistent shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, and slower pulse/breathing, followed by loss of consciousness. Victims of hypothermia are treated by being moved to a warm dry place. Any wet clothing should be removed and the centre of the body warmed up first, working the way down to the extremities. Warm drinks can be offered, but an ambulance should be called immediately so that medical treatment can be administered.
Avoiding the more severe effects of the cold weather we are currently experiencing is vital for all workers right now, but especially for those who are expected to work outside.