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Winter is coming...
16 October 2017
As the nights draw in and the weather turns colder, Maureen Kelso, head of standards & verification at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), asks: "are you and your staff aware of the increased risks?
The changing season can cause a number of health and safety issues for a cleaning team. So, what can you do to ensure your workplace is ready for the coming season?
It is essential to ensure your workplace has adequate lighting enabling your operatives to see and avoid hazards in reduced daylight. According to HSE guidance workplace lighting should be good enough to enable people to use workplace facilities and move from place to place in safety, without the risk of eyestrain.
To check if your lighting is sufficient shadow an employee for a day, checking all of the routes they take. If it is difficult to see hazards, then you will need to make improvements which could be as simple as replacing a light or switching to a brighter bulb.
Personal protective equipment
If your cleaning operatives need to work outside, then you will need to provide them with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Reduction in daylight hours may make your operatives harder to spot so you should equip them with high visibility clothing as well as consider providing warmer clothing and non-slip footwear in icy weather.
In winter, lone working outside of daytime hours can pose a much greater risk to personal safety so it is important to ensure your employees have been properly trained, and are aware of security procedures.
In addition to the security aspects research has shown that there can be undesirable consequences for those working outside of standard daytime hours including fatigue, sleeping difficulties and an increased risk of accidents at work. One way you can help reduce these negative consequences however, is by installing bright lights (>6000 lux). These have been shown to trigger changes in the internal body clock, which in turn can increase alertness and reduce tiredness.
If your cleaning operatives work early mornings or evenings, then you will need to ensure the premises are heated sufficiently during the cold weather. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that indoor workplaces should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing and should be no less than 16 degrees.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive but it should provide a good starting point for you to ensure your cleaning team remains safe and accident-free this winter.