Providing a safe workplace for their employees is one of the most important things any organisation can do. Not only is this part of the duty of care to their team members, it also has a number of benefits for the company itself. A safe team means less injuries and illnesses, so less time off work, better productivity, which will ultimately manifest in a healthier bottom line for the business.
When the days shorten and the weather gets colder, this brings with it certain risks which need to be managed to make sure your employees are safe. Here are the top 6 considerations to keep your employees safe this winter.
1. Stop the Spread of Cold and Flu
Cold and flu run rampant during the winter months, and they can play havoc with your workforce. Not only do these viruses put your employees’ health at risk, they also impact your bottom lines, as your team members start taking more sick days, and productivity plummets. Workplaces are the ideal place to pass on infection, with so many people in close contact for long periods of time. Bathrooms in particular can be a breeding ground for infections: research shows that public restrooms can have up to 500,000 microbes per square inch. Protect your employees (and your profit margins) but making sure bathrooms and other common areas are kept fastidiously clean. Also enforce strict hand-washing policies, and make sure that your employees have the supplies they need to do so, like anti-bacterial handwash.
2. Stop Slips With Rock Salt
Even if you don’t have a large site which includes outdoor areas, your employees will need to cross outdoor surfaces to reach your premises. In winter, pavements and other outdoor surfaces can become a major hazard, whether snow, sleet, frost or just rain. This can lead to a range of accidents, including those which may have your team members laid up and off work for weeks or even months. Rock salt is the easy solution to keep your outdoor surfaces safe. Make sure you have a stock of this throughout winter and keep your surfaces well salted.
3. Check Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality can be a huge health risk to your employees, with potentially serious health effects, including severe respiratory illness from long-term exposure. There are many reasons why poor air quality may occur, from construction dust and other contaminants to air pollution brought inside by air conditioning systems, to radon build-up. During the winter months, closing interior air systems mean that air is circulated over and over, which can exacerbate air quality problems. Check if your employees are at risk by arranging for air quality testing. If the tests show any cause for concern, be sure to address this immediately to protect the health of your team.
4. Maintain Proper Waste Management
Proper waste management in the workplace is essential for stopping the spread of infection, and limiting illness during this vulnerable season. It is important to have proper systems set up for waste disposal throughout your site or office, and arrange for regular and professional waste removal. Make sure that this includes waste items that are often overlooked like paperand cardboard waste. All of this rubbish represents health risks to your employee, so waste management is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Be sure to include separation of recyclables to protect the environment too.
5. Encourage Employees to Take Sick Days
Despite your best efforts, your employees are bound to get sick this time of year, being peak flu season. In order to make sure they get well as soon as possible, establish a culture where taking sick days when ill is not only accepted, but it is encouraged. If possible, also offer flexible work arrangements, such as allowing team members to work from home if they feel under the weather. If you’re worried about loss of productivity consider this: having one employee rest up and take a day or two off work in order to recuperate is much better than them coming to work and making a number of other people sick, who also then take days off!
6. Promote Healthy Winter Habits
When it comes to protecting your employee’s health and safety, this doesn’t just cover managing direct risks of illness and injury. It is also important to promote healthy habits and lifestyle within your team, to promote their overall physical and mental health. Winter is a time when unhealthy habits can easily sneak in, from slacking off on exercise, to snacking on junk food. Help to keep your team members on track by promoting healthy habits this time of year. This could be things like stocking the office kitchen with healthy snacks, or setting up a lunchtime exercise club. It’s also a great idea to encourage employees to have flu vaccinations at the beginning of the season, whether offering reimbursement or even setting up an onsite flu shot clinic.