Winter Working Guidance

Children, Young People and
COP 13
Winter Working
January 2011
Peter Dempsey,
Children’s Health & Safety Manager
Human Resources
Health and Safety
Intended target group:
Children Service employees and governing
January 2011
Last reviewed
Low temperatures
Seasonal Adjustment Disorder
Manual Handling
Hours of work
Ice and snow
Wet weather
High winds
Water leaks/Floods
Vibrating equipment
Electrical equipment
Auxiliary heating and lighting
Selection and maintenance of equipment
APPENDIX 1 Tips on Clearing Snow and Ice from Pavements, etc
APPENDIX 2 Winter Driving Tips
During the winter, certain temporary environmental conditions exist that can
increase the likelihood of accidents or injuries to employees, young people
(pupils) and service users. This arrangement provides guidelines in avoiding or
reducing the risks that arise during the winter.
Good health and safety management is vital in ensuring effective service
delivery and high levels of health and safety in the Children Services. This
Code of Practice (COP) applies to the whole of our Services; sets standards for
compliance and aims to support management with best practice guidelines.
Community School governing bodies have a duty to ensure as far as their
position allows, that the premises, plant or substances used in the premises are
safe and without risk. Governing bodies also have a legal duty to comply with
the Children Services directions and to co-operate, so far as it is necessary to
enable the Council to comply with statutory responsibilities.
It is the responsibility of the Community School Headteacher/ Service Manager
to carry out the policies agreed and monitored by Children Services and where
applicable the Governing Body. The Council is not the employer in Voluntary
Aided or Foundation schools or third party pre school nurseries but would
encourage these organisations to consider adopting this COP or make similar
The Strategic Director for Children and Young People requires that the
arrangements outlined in this code of practice are adopted by all Children
Services establishments.
2.1 Low temperatures
The lower average temperature in the winter can have a number of effects on
the human body. These include conditions such as;
hypothermia, when the body loses heat faster than it produces heat
frostbite, when parts of the body become so cold that blood flow
ceases and permanent damage can occur
cold burns, when the skin freezes, sometimes sticking to a very cold
reduced attention to risks
slower reaction times
less ability to perform delicate tasks
Hypothermia can be difficult to detect as through the distraction of work or the
desire to complete a task, employees may not be aware of initial symptoms.
The onset of the condition is accelerated by wind chill factor. Also, heat loss
due to continual wearing of wet clothing can cause or worsen the onset of
Frostbite and hypothermia are hazards not only for staff who regularly work
outdoors but also staff who frequently move in and out of buildings. It is best
practice to individual to wear lighter multiple layers of clothing and where
possible adjust the task to reduce the risk, rather than simply the use of heavy
insulated clothing.
Staff in offices near external doors may suffer as a result of draughts caused by
frequently opening doors. Provision of temporary screens, heaters and
automatic door closures may help reduce this risk.
In general, risks from the above conditions developing can be reduced with the
use of warm waterproof clothing, including gloves, boots and hats. (Any
clothing deemed to be personal protective clothing is to be provided by the
Headteacher/manager at no cost to the employee.) It is also important to
provide work breaks in a warm environment away from the wind (in a building
or vehicle) and to take warm drinks or food to increase the body temperature
and replace lost fluids, preventing dehydration. Alcohol must be avoided as it
accelerates heat loss.
2.2 S.A.D – Seasonal Adjustment Disorder
For some people reduced lighting levels in winter may trigger a depressive
condition known as Seasonal Adjustment Disorder (SAD). The causes of SAD
are not fully understood and are not accepted by all doctors.
It is believed that over production of the hormone Melatonin and a decrease in
the hormone Serotonin causes SAD. Drug and light treatments are available
and have been recommended by some doctors. Any employee believed to be
suffering from this condition should be referred to Occupational Health and
advised to visit their GP.
Other approaches to help SAD sufferers could be the use of the flexitime
system and consideration of sufferers taking a higher leave entitlement during
the winter.
These factors are the hazards arising from the work activity. The control of
these factors depends on the risk assessment process of identifying, evaluating
and eradicating or controlling the risk. Occupational factors include:
3.1 Manual Handling
Warming up
Manual handling includes the movement of any load by physical effort and
therefore, includes numerous tasks. It is vital in cold weather to ensure that
workers “warm up” joints and muscles before undertaking physical work.
Muscle strain is more likely to occur in cold conditions if careful warming up is
not done.
The load
Staff required to lift loads in winter conditions should ensure that handles or
edges are dry and easy to grip, so that carrying can be done safely. In the
winter, the ground can also be slippery, metal objects can become very cold
and some materials can increase in weight due to water absorption or snow
covering. All these factors can make manual handling tasks more difficult and
should be included in relevant manual handing assessments. (See Children
Services’ Code of Practice 12 “Manual Handling at Work”)
3.2 Hours of work
The number of hours worked by individuals in cold environments must be
carefully considered by the headteacher/ manager to avoid causing harm to
them and to ensure compliance with the law. Two important factors apply.
• Work breaks should be of sufficient duration and frequent enough to allow
the worker to warm up.
• The actual number of hours worked, which must comply with corporate
standards and the Working Time Regulations
4.1 Heating
Legislation states that the temperature of workplaces must be maintained at a
reasonable level. The approved code of practice attached to the
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 explains that the
minimum temperature in most indoor workplaces such as offices should
normally be 16Celsius (about 61 Fahrenheit) after the first hour for mainly
seated work and 13°C where the work involves physical activity
However, for schools the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 also
contain specific temperature targets. They are as follows:
Room/Area Type
Classrooms (teaching or private study areas)
Areas where there is a lower than normal level of
physical activity because of sickness or physical
disability including sick rooms and isolation rooms but
not other sleeping accommodation
Areas where there is a higher than normal level of
physical activity (for example arising out of physical
education) and washrooms, sleeping accommodation
and circulation spaces.
All temperature measurements should be taken approximately one metre
above the ground.
If it is not possible to achieve these temperatures after one hour of starting;
auxiliary heating, pre start heating boost, additional clothing, relocation to
warmer parts of the building, etc should be considered by the Headteacher/
4.2 Ice and snow
The main hazards associated with ice and snow relate to slips and trips.
Accidents can be reduced by ensuring that employees wear suitable slip
resistant footwear if their job involves working outdoors. Snow and ice should
also be cleared from building entrance and exit routes including external fire
escapes. In schools snow should also be cleared to create paths if staff and
pupils are regularly expected to walk between buildings.
Employees have a duty to take care of their own safety by wearing suitable
footwear to work, taking care in slippery conditions and using doormats to
reduce water and slush being carried into buildings. Entrance matting can
become saturated during the course of the day, it then stops having any drying
effect and might need to be replaced so take note if wet footprints are starting
to appear on the floor beyond the matting. Extra maintenance of doormats and
cleaning of floors reduces the risk of slips and trips
With prolonged periods of snow Schools/Nurseries could consider asking
parents to provide “indoor shoes” for their children.
When exceptionally large snow fall is experienced, consideration must be given
to the additional weight loadings placed on structures. Particular attention
should be given to fragile roofs and canopies (See Health and Safety Bulletin
on Canopy Collapses sent December 2010.) Also ensure open surface drains
are cleared of snow so that waste water from buildings can reach the sewer
and does not spill on to pavements, etc.
4.3 Wet weather
When the body is wet, heat is lost at a faster rate which can accelerate the
onset of hypothermia in cold conditions. Protective wet weather clothing and a
warm shelter to take breaks in are control measures that can reduce this risk.
4.4 High winds
The detrimental effects of cold weather are made worse if low temperature is
combined with strong winds. This is known as the wind chill factor. Research by
the HSE has concluded that feel temperature can be reduced by up to 10ºC by
a wind speed of 20 mph.
4.5 Lighting
Workplace Regulations require adequate lighting, provided by natural light
where reasonably practicable. With fewer daylight hours, levels of ambient light
are much lower in the winter,. Artificial lighting may, therefore, need to used
more frequently inside buildings to ensure safe passage around the workplace.
In certain situations there may also be a need to reduce the likelihood of eye
strain during close detailed work by providing local lighting to supplement or
replace overhead lights.
Headteachers/ Managers must consider re-organising external work so it can
be done during daylight hours, or alternatively, provide suitable lighting so that
the job can be done safely. There may also be a need to consider glare from
the low winter sun and the use of curtains or blinds.
4.6 Water leaks/Floods
These situations may be a result of leaking or from burst pipes and water mains.
Roof Leak.
1. Isolate area
2. Switch off all electrics that could or are effected by the water
3. Check ceiling for signs of the potential to collapse i.e. bowing
plasterboard ceiling. If safe, proceed to step 4; if not, proceed to step 6.
(Consider making a hole in the ceiling to let water out if it starts to bulge)
4. Position suitable containers to capture water and where possible move
water delegate items to a safe dry location and protect delegate items
that can not be moved.
Establish system for emptying containers.
6. Arrange for emergency repair and clean up.
Burst Pipe
1. Turn off the water supply (The main stop tap is normally near where the service
pipe enters the building, however, in a school it is very likely that there will be a
number of local issolation points to the system that are closer to the leak.)
Turn off the main stop tap
2. Drain the system - turn on all your cold taps.
If water has been leaking through for some time and the ceilings are bulging be careful, rooms may not be safe to enter.
If you notice the leak quickly you can catch dripping water in buckets.
Consider making a hole in the ceiling to let water out if it starts to bulge.
3. Turn off water heating system - Switch off the central heating, immersion
heater and any other water heating systems that may be affected by the leak.
Once water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to help drain the
system that has been issolated.
4. Turn off the electrics - If water leaks near your electrics or electrical
appliances, switch off the mains immediately. If it is wet, don't touch them!
5. Call a professional to repair the damage.
Frozen pipes
If the water in your pipes has frozen, it's important to try and defrost this as
quickly as possible. The expansion of the water could cause the pipe to burst,
leading to thawed water leaking from the break.
1. Turn off the water supply -Turn off the main stop tap. If you have a cold
water tank, turn off the stopcock (this is usually found in the attic or loft).
2. Protect your possessions - If a pipe appears to be frozen, protect
everything around it to avoid damage if it bursts.
3. Thaw it out - You'll need to thaw out the pipe. First, open the tap nearest
to the part of the pipe you think is frozen (so the water can flow through
once it's melted). Using a hot water bottle or hairdryer, carefully thaw the
ice in the pipe (starting at the tap end and work back toward the cold
water tank). Don't ever use a heat gun or blow torch.
4.7 Structural
Structural problems can occur as a result of high winds, flooding or soil erosion,
or snow load on fragile roofs. Premises Controllers should familiarise
themselves with the procedures to obtain emergency remedial work in case
such problems occur, partial evacuation may be necessary.
4.8 Access/egress
Premises Controllers have a legal duty to provide and maintain safe access
and egress to the workplace. Entrances and exits, including emergency exits,
must be kept clear of any slip or trip hazards such as snow, ice or
accumulations of wet fallen leaves at all times when the building is in use. This
duty extends to the protection of non-employees (pupils, young people, visitors
and the public). Suitable action is:
• Clearing the most used areas in priority to those less used.
• Arrange clearing so that it is undertaken before the heaviest traffic periods
i.e. on many sites twice a day in the early morning and in the evening if
necessary will cope with arrival and departure of building users.
See Appendix A for “Tips on clearing snow and ice”.
5.1 Vibrating equipment
Cold weather can speed up the onset of a condition known as Vibration White
Finger (VWF). This is a debilitating condition associated with the use of
vibrating tools such as pneumatic drills and hammer drills. The methods used
to control VWF must be more stringently applied in cold conditions. These
methods include restricting the time the machine is used for and providing
protective devices to absorb vibrations.
5.2 Electrical equipment
Electrically powered equipment can pose serious risks of injury if used in wet
conditions. Methods to reduce risks include low voltage systems, which reduce
the severity of electric shocks and RCD’s (residual current devices), which
protect users against electric shocks if a fault occurs with the equipment.
5.3 Vehicles
The use of vehicles on the road is usually the responsibility of the driver.
Accidents can be reduced by careful checking of lights, windscreen wash, tyre
condition, brakes and by drivers taking extra care on the road. Following
closely the rules of the Highway Code will go a long way to preventing road
accidents in all road conditions.
Reducing accidents depends on safe vehicles as well as safe drivers. Times
between appointments must allow reasonable time for travelling in adverse
weather conditions.
The provision of extra facilities for drivers who are out for prolonged periods
may be appropriate See Appendix B for “Winter Driving Tips ”
5.4 Auxiliary heating and lighting
If it is necessary to use auxiliary heating or lighting, it is vital to ensure that this
does not compromise the safety of the workplace. For heaters, consider risks of
fire when locating the heaters, any gas supply to the heater or any exhaust
gases produced by the heater. For electric heaters, the possibility of
overloading the power supply should also be considered.
Some gas or paraffin heaters require extra ventilation. Follow the instructions
carefully and be sure to provide what is necessary.
Managers in Facility Managed Corporate buildings such as Frampton Street
and City Hall must obtain Corporate Property’s permission before allowing any
additional heaters to be brought in and used.
For provision of lighting, consider glare to people or traffic and also the
possibility of a power supply overload.
For both heaters and lights, be careful to avoid trip hazards from trailing power
leads. The practice of workers bringing heaters from home should be
5.5 Selection and maintenance of equipment
It is a legal requirement to select suitable equipment for any task. This means
that health and safety must be considered when choosing the equipment that
will be used for the job. Equipment used in the winter must be:
• designed and constructed to a recognised standard
• robust enough for the task
• suitable for the environment it is to be used in
• maintained at an appropriate interval and to an appropriate standard
Appendix A
Tips on Clearing Snow and Ice from Pavements, etc
Prevent slips
Pay extra attention to clear snow and ice from steps and steep pathways - you might
need to use more salt on these areas.
If you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful - don’t make the pathways more
dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because
you’re afraid someone will get injured.
Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful
themselves. Follow the advice below to make sure you clear the pathway safely and
Clear the snow or ice early in the day
It’s easier to move fresh, loose snow rather than hard snow that has packed together
from people walking on it. So if possible, start removing the snow and ice in the
morning. If you remove the top layer of snow in the morning, any sunshine during the
day will help melt any ice beneath. You can then cover the path with salt before
nightfall to stop it refreezing overnight.
Use salt or sand - not water
If you use water to melt the snow, it may refreeze and turn to black ice. Black ice
increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery. You can prevent black
ice by spreading some salt on the area you have cleared. You can use ordinary table
or dishwasher salt - a tablespoon for each square metre you clear should work. Don’t
use the salt found in salting bins - this will be needed to keep the roads clear.
Be careful not to spread salt on plants or grass as it may cause them damage.
If you don’t have enough salt, you can also use sand or ash. These won’t stop the
path icing over as well as salt, but will provide good grip under foot.
Take care where you move the snow
When you’re shovelling snow, take care where you put it so it doesn’t block people’s
paths or drains. Make sure you make a path down the middle of the area to be
cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then shovel the snow from the
centre of the path to the sides.
Appendix B
Winter Driving Tips
Preparing to travel
Start your journey at least 10 minutes early to give you time to prepare the
Don't drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in your
windscreen. Clear all windows of snow and ice using a scraper and de-icer.
Use a cigarette lighter to warm a key for a frozen lock. Don't breathe on the
lock, as the moisture will condense and freeze.
Besides an ice scraper and de-icer, it's worth carrying a mobile phone with
fully charged battery, touch, first aid kit, tow rope, blankets, warm coat and
boots, jump leads, shovel, warning triangle and an old sack or rug (to put
under the wheels if you do get stuck).
Plan routes to favour major roads which are more likely to have been gritted.
Put safety before punctuality when the bad weather closes in.
Driving in snow and ice
Stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow.
Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.
Wear comfortable, dry shoes: cumbersome, snow-covered boots will slip on
the pedals.
Select second gear when pulling away, easing your foot off the clutch gently
to avoid wheel-spin.
When climbing a hill it's important to avoid having to stop on the hill by waiting
until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room between you and the
car in front. Try to maintain a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear
well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill.
When driving downhill, reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and
try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you
and the car in front.
Always apply brakes gently. Release them and de-clutch if the car skids.
If you have an automatic, then under normal driving conditions (motorways,
etc) it's best to select 'Drive' and let the gearbox do the work throughout the
full gear range. In slippery, snowy conditions you can make driving much
safer by selecting '2', which limits the gear changes and also makes you less
reliant on the brakes. Many modern autos have a 'Winter' mode which locks
out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin. Check the handbook if you're
not sure.
If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the
wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres
some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer
Floods and standing water
Only drive through water if you know that it's not too deep for your car.
Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave. Allow oncoming traffic
to pass first and test your brakes as soon as you can after leaving the water.
Don't try driving through fast-moving water, such as at a flooded bridge
approach – your car could easily be swept away.
Driving fast through standing water is dangerous – tyres lose contact with the
road and you lose steering control in what's known as 'aquaplaning'. Watch out
for standing water, trying to avoid it if you can, and adjust your speed to the
conditions. If you do experience aquaplaning, hold the steering wheel lightly
and lift off the throttle until the tyres regain grip.
As you drive slowly through standing water keep the engine rev's high by using
a lower gear, otherwise water in the exhaust could damage the catalytic
If you break down in heavy rain don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for
help to arrive – the engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are
all rain-soaked.
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