Safe working during the winter period

Harry Henderson, audit and compliance manager at Bracknell Roofing
Harry Henderson, audit and compliance manager at Bracknell Roofing

In this blog, Harry Henderson, audit and compliance manager at Bracknell Roofing, looks at the issue of safe working during the winter months.

Winter weather conditions make an already challenging profession even more difficult – which is why we are not alone in the construction industry in having robust practices to ensure the safety and welfare of all of our roofing contractors.

Like all other trades, we are always under the cosh to meet tight deadlines for the completion of various stages on projects – but, thankfully, there is widespread industry acceptance that schedules can be adjusted when winter weather conditions halt work to ensure safe working.

Here is an overview of some of the key areas that we focus on to ensure safe working practice.

Travelling to site

We’ve drawn on information from RoSPA and motoring organisations to create a Toolbox Talk specifically about winter driving, which gives guidance for our staff and contractors.

The first thing we stress is keeping an eye on weather forecasts and local traffic bulletins and heeding any advice about making journeys.

Next, is the suitability of vehicles for the weather conditions – such as having plenty of fuel, ensuring that tyres are inflated to the right pressure and ensuring that all essential functions (such as lights and heating) work properly.

There’s also advice about preparations for a journey, such as taking tools (e.g. a shovel), provisions (food and water), additional layers of clothing and even blankets.

Finally, we go through a myth-buster about driving in frost, ice and snow, such as skidding, using fog lights and getting stationary vehicles moving in snow and ice.

Working on site – site working

A requirement of the Working at Height Regulations 2005 means that contractors cannot work in icy, wet, snowy or windy conditions.

Our RAMS documentation for each project has a section on adverse weather conditions, and one example of the level of detail that it goes into is a table on the Beaufort scale, which clearly states the mean wind speed at which activity should cease. For example, all laying or handling of sheets longer than 5 metres at roof level should cease when the mean wind speed reaches 17 mph (gusting to 26 mph or over).

When on-site, it’s paramount that roofers are aware of conditions and remain vigilant of danger, so all our contractors are required to monitor weather forecasts and to be aware of any site-specific controls.

Roofers should discuss with the site manager any actions that can be taken to ensure a safe working environment and should report any unsafe or hazardous scaffolding or access points.

Working on site – personal care

“Take breaks and warm up” is our mantra for everyone who works outdoors. We increase our stock of PPE in the run-up to winter and encourage roofers to:

  • Wear layers of loose-fitting clothing
  • Stay dry with water-resistant clothing and wear windproof material as an outer shell
  • Wear clothing with proper ventilation – bundle up, but don’t heat up: make sure that your staffs PPE doesn’t cause them to overheat, especially when spending time both indoors and outdoors
  • Keep a spare set of clothes on hand
  • Wear warm boots with treads that grip to protect against icy, wet and frozen surfaces
  • Wear gloves and hats that insulate against the cold – thermals may also be necessary, depending on temperatures.

We encourage roofers to come off the scaffold and use the on-site welfare facilities, which are a warm place to recover during breaks. It’s also important for them to drink plenty of water, as it’s important that they remain hydrated.

Winterisation

This is a term we have coined in our latest Stay on the SafeSIDE newsletter, which is sent out to our employees and contractors at Bracknell Roofing. Regular newsletters are important in driving home messages about safe working, and our winterisation special emphasises planning for winter, plant and vehicles, and access and egress.

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