Wet weather working – Staying safe at work

As yet another storm hits the UK , many of us will be looking forward to staying indoors until things brighten up.  For many workers however, this is simply not an option. What’s more, with wet weather comes a new set of risks – some which can be deadly. However, by following these simple steps, the risk to workers can be significantly reduced

In the rain

One of the biggest dangers in wet weather is posed by slips, trips and falls, with those working at height perhaps most at risk – 15% of all deaths from slips, trips and falls are from roofers alone. One of the simplest measures to prevent this kind of accident is to choose appropriate clothing. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers the following advice for those working in the cold and the rain:

  • During bad weather, avoid boots or shoes with smooth soles and heels, such as plastic and leather soles. Instead, wear shoes or boots that provide traction; boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles are best.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat that will cushion you if you should fall.
  • Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • If working outdoors during the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Another consideration is to adapt the working environment to make it safer during wet weather. Again, the HSE has some tips for keeping workers safe:

  • When fitting external paved areas ensure that the material used will be slip resistant when wet.
  • Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.
  • On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.
  • Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.
  • If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip.

Finally, those driving in the rain should also be aware of the increased dangers posed by poor conditions. Stopping distances can double in the wet as the friction in between the car’s tyres and the road surface is reduced. In extreme conditions this can result in aquaplaning where the steering becomes unresponsive. If this happens ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually. Stopping distances can increase dramatically when a vehicle’s tyres have a shallow tread depth. If your car has the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm it will take you an extra 8 metres to stop at 50mph in the wet compared to a car with 3mm. It’s therefore vital that you factor in the road conditions when calculating stopping distances, as well as checking your tyres regularly and keeping your vehicle correctly maintained.

In the dark

Decreased visibility due to poor weather poses a particular risk for those commuting to work, be it by foot, bike, or by car. Here are some things to consider:

  • Although you will most likely want to wrap up warm, make sure your clothing doesn’t block your vision or make it hard for you to hear traffic.
  • Wear a bright scarf or hat or reflective gear so drivers can see you.
  • Don’t wear rain gear or vests that have become dull or are no longer reflective.
  • If driving, ensure you are familiar with vehicle controls. Remember, it is illegal to drive at night without fully functioning front and rear lights.
  • You should also check that all lights on the car are in full working order and kept clean before you start a journey.
  • In darkness it is harder to judge speed and distance, objects can be closer than they appear or travelling faster than first expected. To prepare yourself for any eventuality you should drive at a speed that allows you to spot hazards and react accordingly.

For more information on driving see our winter driving tips. Also, don’t forget to sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free newsletter, and receive our collection of free original e-books!


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