Updated: Ensuring your employees are safe through their Winter commute

Updated: Ensuring your employees are safe through their Winter commute

This is an updated version of my blog from November 2017 which you can read here: keeping-employees-safe-during-their-winter-commute

 

With the UK weather worsening it is always useful to give your employees a timely reminder and raise awareness of the issues around commuting to and from work during the Winter months ahead.

It has been said that employees who commute can be divided into two groups:

  1. The first will seek a reason to either work from home or make a half-hearted attempt to make the journey.
  2. The second are a hardier group of employees, but sometimes also a risky bunch who will make the effort to get to work whatever the risk.

Winter driving tips can not only help remove some excuses for the first group of employees but also make sure the second group are not putting themselves or others at risk in an effort to be in the workplace.

If we can collaborate to help smarter working and commuting, we can help mitigate the significant increase in deaths and injuries on our roads during the Winter months.

The points below should be considered when putting travel plans in place.

Know when it’s safe to travel

The first and most important Winter driving advice for anyone, but especially commuters, is to know when it is not safe to drive at all.  There are some situations where driving is fool hardy at best and downright bonkers at worst. The best way to judge this is to listen to the local Police instructions.

If it is made very clear across local news outlets that travelling should only be undertaken if it is absolutely necessary then a company should consider advising their employees to stay at home.  The type of conditions that causes this type of warning is usually due to severe condition and any decision should be obvious.

Businesses should have a severe weather policy and procedures in place and have it communicated to all managers and staff; this will stop the first group of employees from taking advantage of it.

Being bad weather prepared

Not all bad weather comes in overnight, so the choice to travel can often be one that is not made first thing in the morning but during a working day or afterwards.  Whenever any employee finds themselves having to drive in bad weather they should be encouraged to keep a number of important things in their cars:

  1. A Blanket or set of warm cloths, to keep warm if they get stuck in their vehicles.
  2. A set of waterproofs with a hi-vis outer garment, in case they break down, get stuck or are told to leave by the police and have to walk to safety.
  3. A pair of boots with good grip, in case they have to walk away from their vehicles in snow.
  4. Non-perishable high calorie food bars and a supply of water, if they find themselves stuck in their vehicles due to traffic or other delays.
  5. A phone charger, again in case they find themselves stuck a well charged phone can be a lifeline.
  6. A torch with spare batteries.
  7. A set of spare bulbs in case of breakdown of any lights.
  8. A shovel for deep snow – for example if driving on smaller roads which may be relatively untreated it can be too easy for a vehicle’s wheels to get stuck.  This can help dig themselves out of such a problem.

It is always important to ensure that your employees are prepared before any journeys are undertaken so it’s vital to ensure that their vehicles are regularly serviced and that the vehicles tyres are in good condition and suitable for the expected weather.

Other things to check should be:

  • Ensuring the vehicles has enough fuel for the planned journey.
  • The oil and coolant levels are topped up.
  • Tyres are at the correct pressure.
  • All lights are working properly.
  • Screen wash levels should be topped up too; it’s a good idea to take some spare windscreen washer fluid.
  • All windows, mirrors and lights should be clean

 

Adverse-weather-policy-business

Being able to control a vehicle in challenging conditions

Giving employees the chance to learn how to control their vehicles in challenging conditions when it starts sliding on ice or in heavy rain is a skill that not enough people know.

It can actually be a great deal of fun to learn in the right environment and this kind of activity makes for a great team building day.  If budget allows it is well worth looking for local driver training centres who offer group sessions.  Equipping staff with the ability to handle a car when things go wrong is certainly something worth considering.

Driving in flood water

In the UK we are far more likely to run into flood water than deep snow.  Flood water, however, can be tackled, rightly or wrongly, by anyone in any vehicle.

To help drivers here are a few basic tips when it comes to driving through flood water:

The first tip is always – Don’t go through it!

If you find yourself in an unavoidable situation always take the advice of the authorities and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Always avoid crossing moving water, if a river or stream has burst its banks and is rushing over the road be very aware a car can lift up in just a few inches of water with potentially fatal consequences.

Crossing standing water on a commute is essential and it can be perfectly safe to do so provided the following tips are used:

  1. Choose a gear and stick to it.
  2. Never change gear in deep water; it will potentially flood the clutch.
  3. Choose a low gear like second and simply slowly drive through keeping a steady and slow pace.
  4. Take it slow – water is heavy, attempting to go charging at the problem will result in damage to the vehicle, water over the bonnet and all sorts of other issues.
  5. Never stop – if the exhaust pipe is underwater the gases coming out will largely prevent water form coming back in. Once the engine slows or stops then the water could get into the exhaust and moving again would be very difficult.

Driving in snow

Put simply, do all the things you normally would do, but just emphasise them more:

  • Take extra care
  • Allow plenty of time to get to your destination
  • Ensure you know the place you are going and the route before you set off
  • Check the route is open and not blocked/heavy traffic (Call the office, they might be able to help check!)
  • Do all the normal vehicle checks; including tyres (tread, PSI), screen wash topped up, is there more than enough fuel, (less than ¼ tank, go fill it up!) Any issues found, report them ASAP.
  • Keep your phone charged.
  • Keep the speed off – slow and steady
  • Allow extra distance to the car in front, who knows what they are about to do – leave enough room to come to a safe stop. If you can only see 15m in front, then drive at a speed that you can stop within 15m in the conditions.

The key to keeping employees as safe as possible in the winter is preparation and thought. Encourage your staff to make sure their vehicles are well equipped and well maintained.

Employers should give staff the power to know when it is not safe to drive by communicating with them and keeping abreast of the local and national weather conditions.

If the weather starts to deteriorate during the day, staff should be sent home before everyone has to sleep in the office.

The weather in the UK can be unpredictable and driving can never be 100% safe but taking the time to educate employees can certainly contribute to getting them in and out of work safely as well as keeping them at home when things are really bad.

Be prepared, be properly equipped, drive responsibly and stay safe on the roads this winter.

Do you have a drivers handbook or adverse weather policy? If not, get in touch and we’ll help you out.

 

Brexit, PPE and Mental Health – Key 2018 Health and Safety updates so far

Brexit, PPE and Mental Health – Key 2018 Health and Safety updates so far

Well, here we are over half way through 2018, and the year has seen some important updates to UK health & Safety. But have business leaders been paying attention?

More than ever, complying with health and safety legislation must be a high priority for any business owner in 2018. Failure to have the correct protections in place could result in injury or even loss of life, as well as imprisonment for responsible persons. Link this to reputation damage and potential business loss, and the moral, legal and financial argument is stronger than ever.

The Helping Great Britain Work Well initiative from the government seems to indicate that 2018 is going to be more about preventative action and best practice sharing, rather than rigorous enforcement.

Don’t be lulled into a sense of complacency regarding Brexit though. The HSE will still be responsible for ensuring the UK’s workplaces are safe and continue to comply with both UK and EU law. The Helping GB Work Well document is designed to refresh the current HSE legislation and ensure its Brexit-ready.  This is going to be a key working practice framework for all UK businesses, so it’s important to ensure you are familiar with the concepts, which are, in brief:

  • Acting together, ensuring businesses take more responsibility for Health and Safety with more specific regulations to protect both workers and visitors.
  • Tackling ill health, identifying and dealing with the causes of work-related ill health (including mental health issues such as stress).
  • Managing risk, simplifying risk management and helping business to grow rather than enforcing greater degrees of legislation on them.
  • Supporting the smaller employers by giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do to comply with the law and current best practices.
  • Keeping pace with change, anticipating and tackling new Health and Safety challenges, especially in evolving industries.
  • Sharing best practice methods, creating a more cohesive Health and Safety strategy that crosses into all workplaces, regardless of sector.

 

2018 Health & Safety Updates So Far

 

The Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 came into effect on 1 Jan 2018. These relate to any organisations that use X-ray equipment, such as hospitals and dental or veterinary practices, and cover how employers should notify the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that they work with ionising radiation, as well as introducing much stricter annual exposure limits for employees.

 

Responses to appeals against prohibition notions. In February, the Supreme Court ruling in HM Inspector of Health and Safety v Chevron North Sea Ltd offered clarity on how businesses respond to prohibition notices.

The decision means organisations can now launch an appeal against a notice if they are confident they can gather the evidence needed to show that there is no serious risk of personal injury, even if this evidence is not available at the time the appeal against the notice is issued.

Filing an appeal means a postponement in the posting of the prohibition notice on the HSE’s public database pending the outcome of the appeal.

 

ISO 45001:2018, a new International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) regulation, was published in March 2018, placing much greater obligations on businesses to demonstrate that they are complying with best practice when it comes to health and safety and the policies they have in place.  While an ISO is not a mandatory legal requirement, it is designed as a management tool for organisations that are looking to eliminate or minimise the risk of harm, and should be taken as best practice.

 

ppe-health&safety-icet-solutions

New PPE regulation changes will be enforceable from April 2018 placing greater onus on importers, distributors and retailers, who will share the responsibility for providing safe and effective products with manufacturers.  This should mean that fewer lower specification and/or counterfeit goods enter the market, which can only be a good thing when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of UK workers.

 

Tough sentencing is being enforced. It’s now over two years since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced for health and safety offences in the UK and it seems that courts were not reluctant to impose very large fines for health & safety failings in 2017.  Some notable fines – for companies such as London and South-eastern Railways (LSER), Iceland Foods Ltd and Warburton’s Ltd – and custodial sentences were given to individuals who were found to have breached health and safety legislation.

 

The guidelines aimed to ensure that fines imposed in such cases were “sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation.”  Over the last year, a number of cases saw fines in excess of £1 million being handed down, including for non-fatal cases.

 

There is more recognition of mental health issues. While there has been legislation in place covering the effects of stress in the workplace for some years; it hasn’t perhaps been as rigorously enforced as it should have been.  With a shifting climate that now puts greater emphasis on mental health and well-being, HSE will be looking closely at how working environments can trigger or even exacerbate existing mental health issues such as stress, and what businesses can do to prevent this.

 

brexit-health&safety-icet-solutions

Preparation for the impact of Brexit. Don’t expect a wholesale change in Health and Safety legislation, even after the final Brexit leave date in 2019.  The vast majority of current legislation (whether EU or UK) will be grandfathered into the EU Withdrawal Bill (Repeal Bill) 2017-19, which has basically copied and pasted all current EU safety legislation into our future UK laws. There may be fewer new bills and regulations introduced during 2018, but fundamentally for anyone involved in Health and Safety, its business as usual.

 

Exports; Remember, if your company exports products or provides services to the EU, they will now have to evidence compliance with both UK & EU Legislation. Its now double the job!

Keeping employees safe during their winter commute

Keeping employees safe during their winter commute

Snowfall is expected in the UK this winter and the Met office have issued warnings for severe wind and rain.

With the UK weather worsening it is useful to give your employees a timely reminder and raise awareness of the issues around commuting to and from work during the winter months ahead.

It has been said that businesses can be impacted by two groups of employees who commute:

  • The first group are a hardy, if not risky group of employees who will make the effort to get to work whatever the conditions.
  • The second group may seek to avoid “making it in” with a token attempt to complete the journey under questionable circumstances.

Giving your employees Winter driving tips will help make sure the hardy group are not putting themselves or others at risk by attempting the journey and can also help tackle some of the more unnecessary excuses from the second group when reasonable efforts should be made.

Most importantly, if we can all collaborate to help smarter working and commuting, we can help mitigate the significant increase in deaths and injuries on our roads during the winter months ahead.

The following are points that should be considered when advising your employees and putting plans in place.

Know when it’s safe to travel

The first, and most important winter driving advice for anyone, but especially commuters is to actually know when it is not safe to drive at all. There are some situations where driving is fool hardy at best and downright bonkers at worst. The best way to judge this is to listen to the local Police instructions via local news outlets.

If it is made clear that travelling should only be undertaken if it is absolutely necessary then a company should consider advising their employees to stay at home. The type of conditions that causes this type of warning is usually due to severe condition and any decision should be obvious.

Businesses should have a severe weather policy and procedures in place and have it communicated to all managers and staff; this will increase safety awareness and will also help manage the situation should you feel some employees are taking advantage of the conditions.

Be bad weather prepared

Not all bad weather comes in overnight, so the choice to travel can often be one that is not made first thing in the morning but during a working day or afterwards.

Whenever any employee finds themselves having to drive in bad weather they should be encouraged to keep a number of important things in their cars:

  1. A Blanket or set of warm cloths, to keep warm if they get stuck in their vehicles.
  2. A set of waterproofs with a hi-vis outer garment, in case they break down, get stuck or are told to leave by the police and have to walk to safety.
  3. A pair of boots with good grip, in case they have to walk away from their vehicles in snow.
  4. Non-perishable high calorie food bars and a supply of water, if they find themselves stuck in their vehicles due to traffic or other delays.
  5. A phone charger, again in case they find themselves stuck a well charged phone can be a lifeline.
  6. A torch with spare batteries.
  7. A set of spare bulbs in case of breakdown of any lights.
  8. A shovel for deep snow – if driving on smaller roads which may be relatively untreated it can be easy for a vehicle’s wheels to get stuck. A shovel may help the driver to resolve such a problem.

It is always important to ensure that your employees are prepared before any journeys are undertaken so it’s vital to ensure that their vehicles are regularly serviced and that the tyres are in good condition and suitable for the expected weather.

Other things to check should be:

  • Ensuring the vehicle has enough fuel for the planned journey.
  • The oil and coolant levels are topped up.
  • Tyres are at the correct pressure.
  • All lights are working properly.
  • Screen wash levels should be topped up too; it’s a good idea to take some spare windscreen washer fluid.
  • All windows, mirrors and lights should be clean

flood driving tips

Driving in flood water

In the UK we are far more likely to run into flood water than deep snow. Flood water, however, can be tackled, rightly or wrongly, by anyone in any vehicle. To help drivers here are a few basic tips when it comes to driving through flood water:

The first tip is always – Don’t go through it!

If you find yourself in an unavoidable situation always take the advice of the authorities and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Always avoid crossing moving water, if a river or stream has burst its banks and is rushing over the road be very aware a car can lift up in just a few inches of water with potentially fatal consequences.

If crossing standing water on a commute is essential, it can be perfectly safe to do so provided the following tips are used:

  1. Choose a gear and stick to it.
  2. Never change gear in deep water; it will potentially flood the clutch.
  3. Choose a low gear like second and simply slowly drive through keeping a steady and slow pace.
  4. Take it slow – water is heavy, attempting to go charging at the problem will result in damage to the vehicle and reduced visibility with water over the bonnet
  5. Never stop – if the exhaust pipe is underwater the gases coming out will largely prevent water form coming back in. Once the engine slows or stops then the water could get into the exhaust and getting moving again will be very difficult.

Controlling a vehicle in challenging conditions

Giving employees the chance to learn how to control their vehicles in challenging conditions when driving on ice or in heavy rain is a skill that not enough people know.

It can actually be a great deal of fun to learn in the right environment and this kind of activity makes for a great team building day. If budget allows it is well worth looking for local driver training centres who offer group sessions. Equipping staff with the ability to handle a car when things go wrong is certainly something worth considering.

Keeping employees safe

The key to keeping employees as safe as possible in the winter is preparation and thought. Encourage your staff to make sure their vehicles are well equipped and well maintained.

Employers should give staff the power to know when it is not safe to drive by communicating with them and keeping abreast of the local and national weather conditions. If the weather starts to deteriate during the day you should consider sending people before everyone has to sleep in the office.

The weather in the UK can be unpredictable and driving can never be 100% safe but taking the time to educate employees can certainly contribute to getting them in and out of work safely, as well as keeping them at home when things are really bad.

Be prepared, be properly equipped, drive responsibly and stay safe on the roads this winter.

If you need help to quickly create a severe weather policy for your business, give us a call.