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



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.


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