As the days grow shorter, many of us will be spending a fair part of our working day in the dark. The implications for health and safety are serious and employers need to know what they can do to reduce the risk. Find out more in our article.
Clocks going back and daylight hours reducing increases the risks to employees and public alike.
These are some of the headings an employer should consider with shorter daylight hours:
Review risk assessments
Safe access and egress
Extra care for visitors/contractors
The first task all employers should undertake is a review of their existing risk assessments, which is a requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. This should highlight any potential hazards. Each task should be considered with the change in lighting in mind and the possible effects it may have.
An employer has duty of care to their employees and others (public, contractors and visitors).
Remember to review your emergency procedures. In the event of an emergency which is outside in the dark, a simple solution could be to provide a suitable torch with the first aid box.
Encourage staff to wear light coloured clothing in order to be seen at night while travelling to and from work.
Consideration should be given to employees or visitors accessing and leaving the building. The site should be well illuminated to avoid slips, trips and falls. Further thought should be given for people with limited mobility and the difficulty some may experience differentiating the steps in low light. Steps should be well contrasted, again to avoid slip, trip and fall injuries.
These are all duties under The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 Section 2, (2)(d) – providing safe access and egress.
Safety also includes having the areas well illuminated and avoid creating shadows which may hide potential hazards.
Security of staff to and from remote areas, car parks, etc. should be carefully reviewed and control measures introduced. This may be a simple change in work patterns so that tasks can be completed in daylight and indoor office work carried out when it is dark.
New lighting could be required to provide sufficient illumination of the area. CCTV with infra-red floodlights may need to be considered if areas of the business are vulnerable during hours of darkness. This can also be used to monitor staff and provide early assistance in an emergency. One other possible bonus with CCTV is the potential of reduced insurance premiums.
Do not overlook pedestrian walkways and traffic movements, especially where people/traffic are leaving very bright areas, then going to unlit dark areas (or vice versa). It takes the human eye a short time to adjust to the different lighting levels. This can leave the person vulnerable if there are any hazards present.
Review areas to which the public and contractors have access and the effect that reduced hours of daylight will have. Remember, public, visitors and contractors are not familiar with your layout and the area will need to be well signed. Poor illumination can mask obvious trip hazards. Ideally, all walkways should be repaired and maintained so that any trip hazards can be eliminated.
One final point – your perimeter fence.
With the reduced daylight hours, it is a known fact that anti-social behaviour increases. Opportunist thieves are also more likely to strike. To help protect your business, look carefully at any barriers, fencing or walls that make up your boundary. Ensure these are in a good state of repair and are still adequate for the purpose for which they were originally installed. Any vulnerable areas such as easy, unauthorised access points and high business risk e.g. flammable stores, hazardous storage should be given special consideration and this may include providing temporary floodlighting and CCTV. Warning signs should be displayed prominently to deter any unauthorised entry. Any existing signs should be checked and replaced if necessary. Clear shrubs, litter and general rubbish away from the perimeter and from any signs.
This would also be a good time to ensure no racking, skips or storage bins that could assist with unauthorised entry into the business are placed by the wall. Never store flammables next to the fence/wall that a potential arsonist could start a fire (the largest cause of fires to business). Make sure waste bins have their lids closed; at the end of the working day, the lids should be locked.
Check Risk Assessments for the effect of dark conditions. This will ensure that you are prepared for any eventuality.
Add a torch to your first aid kit. If an incident happens and lighting fails, you will be still be able to treat injuries.
Add light to walkways. If your premises is used at night, this will reduce the danger of trips, slips and falls.
Use reflective PPE where possible. By using this, you will make your employees easier to see and reduce the risk of being involved in an accident. They will also be easier to find in the dark if anything happens to them.
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