Inclement weather can pose serious dangers both to lorry drivers and warehouse employees.
All your team must be prepared to handle the cold, rain and snow. As an employer, you have a duty of care to create a safe working environment for your staff and establish and communicate policies effectively in the event of inclement weather.
Should an employee suffer illness or injury during their work, they could hold your business responsible and make a civil claim against you under the Employers Liability section of your Business Insurance.
Adverse Driving Conditions
Your biggest concern should be the safety of your employees. Weather can threaten drivers’ safety on the road and put them in danger.
They must be trained and prepared to deal with all potential weather they may encounter.
Drivers should always be aware of upcoming conditions for the day. Offer them resources to check weather and road conditions regularly before beginning their shift.
Before bad weather hits, all vehicles should be given a thorough safety inspection and should be equipped with emergency materials such as a snow scraper, blanket, first aid kit and torch.
Drivers should also ensure that they are dressed for the cold and have the proper protection in case they are stranded.
Training Your Drivers
To protect your company against liability, employees should be trained in safe, cautious driving techniques in all types of weather and know what to do in case of an accident.
Many companies fail to provide such training, leaving drivers ill-equipped and at risk.
Sometimes, the weather may be too severe to safely drive. You must emphasise to your drivers the importance of pulling off to the side of the road when visibility or traction is threatened.
Your policies will dictate their behaviour – make sure you are flexible enough to adjust driving schedules around hazardous weather conditions.
Stressing the importance of stopping when driving conditions are dangerous is difficult with employees who receive remuneration based on distance travelled, so focus on the impact on their health and safety. A debilitating accident could result in more lost wages than a few miles.
Needless to say, motor claims under fleet insurance also increase significantly during ice, snow or wet conditions.
Driver training and awareness can dramatically reduce claims volumes as well as improving driver safety.
Risks for Warehouse Workers
Warehouse employees and drivers performing loading and unloading tasks are also at risk during inclement weather.
It is important that they dress for the weather and are prepared to handle these conditions – even if they only are exposed for short periods throughout the day. Extreme cold, precipitation and wind can be hazardous and damaging to employees even in small doses.
Cold Weather Safety
When exposed to cold, wet or windy conditions, workers should take the following precautions:
- Take breaks to get warm if exposed for extended periods
- Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid smoking, which constricts blood flow to the skin
- Be aware of any cold weather-related side-effects of any medication they may be taking
- Know and understand symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries
- Stretch before physical work to prevent muscle pulls and injuries
Personal protective equipment and protective clothing are especially necessary for drivers and on the loading bay during inclement weather because of the slip and fall hazards present.
Good housekeeping practices, such as using slip-resistant surfaces on docks and inside where shoes will leave puddles of water, will eliminate some of these risks.
However, it is impossible to remove all perils on the loading bay, so while securing loads, loading and unloading, employees should be required to wear approved slip-resistant footwear.
In addition, employees should wear the following clothing to protect from cold, wind, rain or snow:
- At least three layers of clothing, including a loose-fitting outer layer, allows ventilation and prevents overheating
- Insulated boots
- Gloves – not only can the cold cause injuries to exposed skin, but cold hands also make one more prone to injury when lifting objects or operating machinery
Winter weather can cause unusual conditions and higher risks, so it is essential to train all your employees on safety procedures.
They should understand the danger of exposed skin, insufficient protective wear and cold, wet or slippery equipment.
Employees also should be trained to recognise cold-weather illnesses and injuries in themselves and co-workers and should be aware of how to treat such incidents.
Be sure that you have a communication plan in place to speak with your employees about weather conditions, including if your facility is closing for the day or if they cannot make it work.
With your drivers, make it your policy to stay in close communication and advise them when considering driving in hazardous weather conditions.
When bad weather is coming, address all your policies again, remind employees of communication channels to discuss attendance and plan for the worst potential outcome to ensure your company is prepared for the weather and that your employees stay safe.
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