Winter safety strategies: protecting your team in cold temperatures 

When winter arrives, the risk of falls, injuries, and workplace transport incidents increases significantly. Advance preparation and a proactive approach are key to protecting your team from cold weather hazards. 

Our latest blog shares targeted strategies to keep your workers warm, healthy, and productive in even the harshest conditions. Make it your go-to guide for a safe and successful winter. 

Establish clear snow and ice procedures 

Forget the myths around to grit or not to grit. Each of your branches has a legal requirement to provide a safe working and retail environment so far as is reasonably practicable. 

Guidance in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 says, ‘Arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow or ice, which may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders, and walkways on roofs.’

This may not mean that gritting or salting your entire yard is viable, but common traffic routes and customer walkways from the car park to the counter and shop are important. To make the most of your gritting efforts: 

  • Ensure you have enough rock salt in the branch. Take stock regularly and keep levels topped up until March at the earliest. 
  • Barrier off dangerous areas on your site that can’t be gritted, making sure safe diversions are treated and clearly signposted. 
  • Monitor weather forecasts to ensure you grit at the ideal time. Apply rock salt to steps, slopes, and walkways in the afternoon or evening before an air frost (0◦c or below) or before an expected snowfall. 

Need further advice on yard safety in freezing conditions? Get in-depth guidance on establishing your snow and ice procedure

Step up workplace transport safety 

Poor visibility, snow, and ice increase the chances of a collision on your site. Whether your workers are operating a forklift or an HGV, ensure they’re up to speed with extra precautions required throughout winter. 

  • Remind drivers and forklift operators to report slippery areas immediately.
  • Remember that stopping distances are increased on snow and ice, so instruct drivers to factor in additional braking time. 
  • If driving in adverse weather is essential, make sure vehicles are fit for the road. Pre-journey checks should include tyre pressure and condition, fuel levels, wipers, lights, and defrosters. Drivers should also have de-icer or an ice scraper to hand.  

Keep indoor workers warm 

Even with the heating on in your retail space, temperatures can dip to uncomfortable levels for customers, cashiers and back-office employees. A few practical measures can maintain a warm working environment and prevent cold-related health and productivity issues. 

  • Supplement central heating with portable heaters where necessary. When using heaters, always check cables for wear, keep units uncovered and at least one metre from flammable materials and monitor fume levels within your workspaces. 
  • Install insulating floor coverings or offer purpose-made footwear for employees who stand for long hours in cold conditions. 
  • Keep draughts under control with excluders, sealants, and automatic doors. When carrying out draught-proofing, be sure to maintain adequate ventilation and fresh air flow through each space.
  • Provide suitable protective clothing for cold environments, such as thermal boots, jackets, gloves, and coveralls. Consider whether these garments should also offer hi-vis or waterproof features.
  • Build ample breaks into the workday to allow staff to warm up in heated areas. Make sure you provide clean, hygienic facilities to make hot food and drinks.
  • Rethink processes to minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products. This might include introducing flexible working patterns or job rotation to limit staff time in low temperatures. 

Reduce outdoor working risks  

Working outside in low temperatures presents additional dangers for your team. You could be putting your employees’ health at risk if hazards are not effectively managed. Cold weather can also impact workers’ ability to operate tools and heavy machinery, increasing your odds of an onsite accident. 

As well as implementing the practical safety measures already listed, you should assess and manage specific exposure hazards and increase protection where needed. This might mean more frequent breaks in a warm, sheltered area, a steady flow of hot drinks and specially designed personal protective equipment (PPE). 

The HSE also recommends: 

  • Ensuring the personal protective equipment issued is appropriate
  • Providing mobile facilities for warming up
  • Offering soup and hot drinks
  • Introducing more frequent rest breaks
  • Implementing flexible hours or amended schedules to avoid low temperatures
  • Delaying jobs until warmer times of the year (without compromising on safety)
  • Making sure workers can recognise the early symptoms of cold stress, including a cough or body aches.

Specialist safety advice, all year round 

Questions about cold-weather compliance? Discuss your winter safety needs with a knowledgeable Opus expert. Get in touch on or 0330 043 4015.

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