For many, the holiday season means long periods of leisure and time spent in the home surrounded by family and friends. But for some, work continues as usual through these periods. However, we do not always consider that health and safety risks around the holiday season not only change, but are likely to become more prevalent and heightened due to bad weather conditions and human risk.
So what are the increased hazards and what can we do to stay safe over the holiday period?
Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls remain the most common cause of non-fatal workplace accidents. But for those working over the winter months, icy pavements and roads pose an even greater risk, particularly for those working alone and outdoors or travelling around to carry out home and property visits.
- Wear strong and durable footwear for all conditions, such as boots with substantial grip.
- Keep work environments clear of snow and ice, and set up safety hazard cones to warn others to be cautious.
- Use anti-slip materials, such as salt and sand to prevent slippages.
- Install large absorbent mats or canopies in areas which collect rain water.
- Be attentive to the weather and ensure that if freezing temperatures ae forecast, the right safety measures are activated, such as layering grit, covering walkways, and creating alternative routes.
As people travel home for the holidays, visit friends and family and spent their free time shopping for gifts, the roads become an increasingly busy place. Unfortunately, the risk of drunk drivers on the road also increases as individuals drive home after work and Christmas parties.
- Due to colder weather conditions and longer darker periods in winter, driving can be made more hazardous due to icy surfaces. Taking extra care and being diligent when driving by lowering speed and being more attentive to others on the road and pedestrians, is the safest way to travel if confronted with these circumstances.
- To ensure your vehicle is fit for travelling in winter climates, the following basic checks should be carried out:
- Lights are working adequately.
- Brakes are working as they should be.
- Tyres are fully pumped through monitoring pressure and tread depth.
- Windscreen and windscreen wipers are clean, clear and fully functioning.
- As conditions can often change quickly and unexpectedly, listen to travel advice and weather broadcasts to find out if your journey may be affected to make extra preparation and plan alternative routes.
- Emergency kits should always be packed in the likelihood of break-downs or being stranded. These should include: Wellington boots, de-icer equipment, a shovel, first aid kit, a blanket, and torch.
Aggression and violence
For those working with clients and members of the public, the risk of verbal and physical aggression is likely to be higher. Alcohol consumption is high over the Christmas period, and unfortunately can cause some people to become aggressive. Additionally, the Christmas period can cause stress and tension due to additional pressures and spend.
- Workers should research the reputation of areas and neighbourhoods they are working in to be alert and prepared of what types of people they may be confronted with.
- Workers should remain in well-lit and open areas, avoiding more isolated, narrow and hidden away areas, such as dead-ends and alleyways.
- All possible escape routes in the areas should be located for quick and accessible exits.
- When working in communities, workers should familiarise themselves with the premises and be aware of others’ movements at all times.
- Workers should wear warm and protective clothing to both safeguard from the cold and any external damage from aggressive members of the public.
- Carry a personal alarm to signal for help if in danger of being attacked.
Cold weather can be a massive issue for employees working over the winter months. For those working outside or in client homes, controlling the temperature is no longer in their hands, and can expose them to unhealthy temperature levels.
In 2014, a cold work environment lead the death of a lone working security guard. When a generator failed at his workplace, exposing him to sub-zero temperatures, the security guard lit a fire within the container he was working in. Unbeknown to the employee, the fire exposed him to deadly fumes and he soon died from carbon monoxide poisoning. There were no lone worker emergency procedures in place for the employee and his employer was found guilty and fined under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
- Ensure heating and generators are operational in colder months
- Consider flexible work patterns and job rotations for those working outside or in buildings where heating cannot be controlled
- Ensure employees are able to take regular breaks for hot drinks
- Consider the practically of PPE. For example, in cold weather you may consider providing employees working outside with thick work gloves but this may restrict them from operating the tools or machinery they need
Pickpockets and thieves
Busy shopping centres and high streets are a honey pot for pickpockets, particularly around the Christmas period where crowds of people make it easier to go unnoticed. Following Christmas, pickpockets are aware that many will have been given brand new smartphones and gadgets, making it an ideal time to target their victims.
- Instruct employees to keep personal items of value are kept out of sight and reach – trouser and coat pockets are an easy place for thieves to reach
- For lone workers travelling and carrying out visits, ensure they avoid unlit areas and choose the safest routes
- Instruct employees to stay vigilant if travelling through busy streets and shopping areas
- If the lone worker has a safety app, instruct them on how to send a discreet alert if confronted in a mugging
With more people in the company taking time off than any other time of the year, many employees may find that they are left unsupervised. For lone workers, this may mean that no one is around to check in, while others may find themselves lone working when they usually wouldn’t be.
- Ensure employees who are left working alone are not carrying out roles unsafe to do so without the support of a colleague. Your risk assessments should provide the information you need to determine whether your employees will be safe
- If your lone workers use a safety app which is monitored by the company, ensure monitoring cover is available or look into using outsourced monitoring over the holiday period
Lone worker monitoring
In each of these situations, lone worker monitoring apps and devices can be a crucial solution if any of these hazards escalate into an emergency situation. StaySafe offer an app and monitoring service which allows lone workers to signal for help if they suffer an accident, are left unconscious or are confronted by an aggressor. The wide range of features such as man-down and missed check-ins, means an alert will be triggered even if a lone worker is unable to do so themselves. Plus, our monitoring partners offer monitoring and response 24/7, 365 days a year.