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:
- A Blanket or set of warm cloths, to keep warm if they get stuck in their vehicles.
- 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.
- A pair of boots with good grip, in case they have to walk away from their vehicles in snow.
- 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.
- A phone charger, again in case they find themselves stuck a well charged phone can be a lifeline.
- A torch with spare batteries.
- A set of spare bulbs in case of breakdown of any lights.
- 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
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:
- Choose a gear and stick to it.
- Never change gear in deep water; it will potentially flood the clutch.
- Choose a low gear like second and simply slowly drive through keeping a steady and slow pace.
- 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
- 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.