As temperatures are plummeting and traveling to work becomes a lot more dangerous, it is crucial for employers to allow flexibility during harsh weather conditions.

Although many of your employees may be unable to travel to work because of the snow and ice, business does not have to stop altogether as a consequence of bad weather. Businesses that implement sound business continuity and safety policies paired with an effective communication system should be more than able to continue with business as usual; even in adverse weather conditions without putting their workforce in danger.

Employers will have many factors to take into consideration at this time of year, including:

  • Safety in the workplace
  • Low temperatures
  • Office closures and trying to keep business ticking over
  • Employee, contractor and public safety
  • Planning and implementation of communications

Quick decisions may need to be made in the event of unexpected weather conditions regarding closing the office and sending staff home. These judgments should always be made by considering the hazards and potential risks to your employees, as safety should always be at the forefront of this decision. These types of decisions can also be made with the input of your health and safety representative or office manager.

In the circumstances of extreme and dangerous weather, it is very important that communication is constant throughout your business. It is imperative that your employees know what the company policy is, and who to talk to if they have any questions regarding the policy.

Here are a few health and safety issues that you may need to address as an employer:

  • Risk assessment – You must decide who the decision makers are in the event of bad weather so that you know who has the responsibility for advising staff to leave the workplace, or if your office is closing for a certain period of time. The five stages of risk assessment should be applied, as always, and a decision made by a competent individual.
  • Safety in the workplace – At this time of year there may be fewer people in the workplace, so lone situations may arise. It is still very important to maintain communication with your employees in this situation and ensure that all unnecessary jobs are put on hold. You should also have consideration for employees that are more vulnerable such as disabled or pregnant staff.
  • Emergency arrangements – Low staffing levels may occur during this period, so making arrangements to deal with emergencies should be considered. The types of emergencies that could occur are: people trapped in lifts; failure of safety critical systems; first aid incidents; power failures; fire evacuations; and temperatures falling below the minimum guidelines.
  • Driving for work – You must ensure that all staff who travel to work by car are allowed extra time to complete their journeys and are not pressurised to make the journey to work if their route is affected by extreme weather.
  • Slips, trips and falls – When walking from and to car parks or between buildings at work during bad weather, special attention should be given to avoid slipping and falling. You will find that slips and falls are the most common types of injuries during the winter months. You must remind your employees to to avoid boots or shoes with smooth soles that are not sturdy on icy walkways. Wearing a pair of well insulated boots with rubber treads is advised, and walking slowly and carefully will decrease your chances of falling. Main pathways and steps that access the building should be cleared of any ice or snow to stop this from happening also. It is also important for your employees to shake off any snow on their boots, as this can result in floors becoming very wet and slippery when it melts.
  • Working from home – Employers should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that their emplyees’ health is at the forefront of priority. Working from home is a good solution if employees cannot get into work due to the weather, so home working assessments should also be undertaken to ensure that it is safe and comfortable to work from home; and that they have the means to do so.
  • Employees trapped at work – You must encourage your employees to keep an eye on weather conditions throughout the day, as this will reduce the chance of staff being trapped at work when the weather worsens. Communication is key at this point, as it will then be your decision to close down the business and send people home before anyone is stuck.
  • Contractors – Contractors, freelancers and part time staff. Make sure you have means of contacting everyone who usually work in your business.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – If your employees are required to work outside, then you must ensure that suitable and sufficient PPE is provided.
  • Members of the public – Make sure that there is suitable and sufficient signage displayed to inform the public of any important information that concerns them.

Points to remember

  • Communication is important. Please ensure that staff are informed of changes made within the business.
  • It is paramount to consider the temperature of your working environment, ensuring the staff are comfortable and not too cold. Workplaces should never let the temperature drop below 16 degrees Celcius
  • Remain in contact with freelancers, contractors and part time workers
  • Driving to and from work can be extremely hazardous in the event of adverse weather
  • Slips, trips and falls may occur during icy weather, so advise staff to wear the correct footwear and use signage where possible. Also ensure that walkways are gritted.

To discuss solutions for your businesses or talk to someone about health and safety needs, contact us on 01296 678440 or email