The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is urging caution as people return to work following Storm Emma and the extreme snow fall of last week. Many workers, particularly those involved in storm repair, construction, farming and transportation will be facing increased hazards, the HSA has said. It is offering advice on ways to stay safe in the coming days and weeks.
Work at height
After previous extreme weather events, a number of workplace fatalities occurred due to falls from height. Any work at height, such as repair of overhead lines or the roofs of farm buildings, should be untaken with extreme caution in mind. Repair of roofs should only be done after snow and ice has been cleared and a risk assessment has been carried out. All work at height must be properly planned and organised, the correct equipment should be used, and anyone working at height must be competent to do so.
Work activity in the agriculture sector will be severely hampered by the snow and ice. Farmers should take precautions and make their personal safety paramount. If it is necessary to be in fields, farmers should:
- wear footwear with good grips;
- wear a high-visibility jacket; and
- tell someone their estimated time of return.
It is important to have a fully charged mobile phone and a torch, even if just going out to feed animals in sheds or to carry out milking. Pathways to machinery and sheds should be cleared to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
Slips, trips and falls
The freezing and icy conditions will make even simple tasks, like navigating walkways and car parks hazardous. The likelihood of experiencing a slip, trip or fall in the workplace can double in icy conditions. The HSA is urging that walkways and car parks are treated with grit or salt to provide safe walkways and the more dangerous areas are cordoned off.
Driving for work
The hazards of driving for work will greatly increase in the snow and ice. Employers should review their risk management policies and ensure driving in adverse conditions is properly covered.
Anyone driving for work should:
- remove snow from their vehicle and ensure it is in roadworthy condition before driving;
- carry an emergency kit including a fully charged mobile phone, and have spare warm clothing; and
- before beginning a journey, be aware of travel bulletins and advice from the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána.
Martin O’Halloran, chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) says: “After such an extreme weather event, many people will be facing conditions that they are not used to working in. With the likelihood of heavy rain and flooding to come, I would call on all employers and employees to put personal safety first at all times.”