With more rain forecast in parts of the UK this week, working outdoors in cold, wet weather can be uncomfortable and dangerous if the appropriate measures aren’t taken to ensure your health and safety.
As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must provide a safe working environment, including keeping employees protected from weather-related hazards like heavy rain.
Suppose you’re concerned that your work environment is unsafe or you haven’t been provided the right equipment for your working conditions. In that case, John Johnston, head of e-commerce at Workwear Express has highlighted all of the safety regulations and guidelines that should be followed and the rights you have as an employee.
Safety regulations and guidelines
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1972, your employer must provide appropriate PPE to those working outside in wet conditions. This can include everything from waterproof clothing to footwear, gloves and hats.
Carrying out a risk assessment
It is also essential that your employer has conducted a risk assessment of the environment before any outdoor work takes place. This should consider the weather and potential hazards and safety issues that could occur from it, like the effect of extreme temperatures on the well-being of employees, slippery, unstable surfaces and poor visibility.
Outdoor workers should be given correct training and information on how to work safely in cold and wet weather. This includes how to carry out your job in these weather conditions and how to recognise the symptoms of weather-related health risks.
Employees should know the correct process or safe working practices outdoors in the rain. This can include the correct techniques for using equipment in bad weather, heavy lifting, and general working in the rain.
Slips, trips, and falls
Employers are required by law to minimise the risk of workplace slips, trips, and falls, which is especially important when working on wet surfaces. Your employer should be handling this by ensuring you are using anti-slip materials to put down on surfaces, employees’ footwear has the appropriate grip, good drainage on the site, warning signs in various areas, and good lighting is provided.
In cold, rainy weather, your employer should also provide access to a sheltered space for breaks to allow you to get out of the rain, dry off and warm up your body temperature after long periods in the cold.
Bad weather can increase the likelihood of accidents and health-related hazards, so your employer must have a first aid kit and a trained first aider who can tend to injuries or health issues.
When can you refuse to work?
Unfortunately, no matter how miserable the weather is, you can’t refuse to work solely because of the cold and rain. However, you can refuse to work if you think your working conditions are unsafe or there is a serious risk to your health and safety – which comes under theEmployment Rights Act 1966.
It is better to take a more proactive approach to the problem and discuss your concerns and issues with your employer to see if you can come to a solution before refusing to work.
However, suppose you find that your employer is being neglectful and has failed to follow the correct processes and regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In that case, you might seek further help from a health and safety representative.
If you are a member, you can also turn to your trade union for extra support and advice about how to approach the situation of working in an unsafe environment.
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