It’s yet to be seen just how tough the weather will get, but for anyone who has worked on-site during the winter months you’ll know to expect freezing temperatures, strong wind, possibly some snow and- the good old fashioned British tradition- lots and lots of rain.
But trying to warm your hands up on your Greggs steak bake aside, winter means dangerous conditions: with the season often seeing an increase in accidents on-site and on the roads, with the icy ground and poorer visibility. Here are some top tips for the cold months ahead and to help you make it through.
Physical days can often leave you smelling a bit like an onion, so in the winter it is best to act like one- layer up.
Working outdoors for prolonged periods in cold conditions can lead to serious health problems. Cold stress can have serious implications, so dig out your thermals and ensure you’ve got some decent waterproof gear for when the heaven’s inevitably open.
You might want to think about some insulated boots or at the very least, make sure you’ve got a change of clothes and footwear in the van as a backup for if you finish the day wet through.
Ice is a known danger on the roads, but it can also be a nightmare on-site: accumulating on scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs and platforms.
Keep your eye on the forecasts overnight and plan ahead. Putting down grit on areas that see traffic will help alleviate risks. As the temperatures plunge, it’s worthwhile doing a quick run-round on-site in the morning to check if there are any areas that have been particularly hit, and then treating them- or at the very least letting the team know to tread carefully.
If we do see snow, which can become compacted and turn to ice, it can become difficult to manage, so make sure to clear high traffic areas if work can continue.
It’s easy to focus on the weather, but winter also means the days are getting shorter. Before you know it the sun has gone down, you’re working in the dark, and it feels like it’s only been ten minutes since your Pot Noodle lunch break with the heater on full whack in the van.
Make sure you have got plenty of hi-vis gear and get yourself some decent weatherproof lights if you are working outdoors.
Your van becomes more important than ever at this time of the year, often providing some much-needed shelter when the days get tougher. As Autumn closes out, make sure you are set for the season ahead. Checking tyres and lights are in good condition as a minimum.
It’s also a good idea to get yourself a backup care package if you haven’t already. Are pen and paper ready? De-icer, scrapers, torch/back-up lights, jump leads, changes of clothes and boots, plenty of gloves, phone charging cable, snacks and, of course, a proper first aid kit.
As tradespeople, you know just how tough winter will be, and you will have your own rituals and methods for getting through, but it’s all about having some common sense.
At a time of the year when accidents are more common, make sure you are covered by ensuring you’ve got the appropriate insurance for the jobs you are doing.
Power through what you can, but be sensible. If conditions become really dangerous, you may have to adjust your working schedules to ensure nobody is taking unnecessary risks. During the day, take plenty of hot drinks and breaks where you can to get warm and have a breather.
Winter can undeniably be hard work, depending on what sort of work you do, but it is also a time of year that comes with its own set of pressures and challenges. It’s important to keep an eye on your own, and your workmates’ mental health. Whether it’s long hours, short days or money worries, it can be a taxing time.
The NHS reports seasonal affective disorder affects around 2 million people in the UK: being hit by depression, sleep problems and other symptoms. Make sure to check in on each other and most importantly, check in on yourself.