The UK is well-known for its wet weather, which means that anyone who works outside for any length of time is pretty much guaranteed to find themselves working in the rain at some point. Then, of course, there’s snow and the fact that it melts. In short, understanding how to work in the wet is essential to safe outdoor working in the UK.
Electricity is the ultimate wet weather hazard
While many of the dangers associated with working in the wet can be mitigated by the use of appropriate equipment and training, there is nothing can be done about electricity other than to keep people away from it. Because of this, it is imperative to take proper care of anything electrical which located or used out of doors. This includes maintaining electrical cabling (i.e. ensuring that the insulation remains intact) and also keeping equipment and tools in proper repair.
Driving in wet weather
After electricity, driving is probably the next most dangerous wet weather hazard. Roads become slippery, off-road conditions can turn treacherous (particularly when grass is churned up and becomes mud) and visibility is often reduced. Added to all this, the lack of grip means that brakes are less effective, i.e. vehicles need longer to slow down. Steering can also become more difficult with drivers experiencing skidding on particularly wet surfaces. Because of all this, anyone managing a vehicle in wet weather needs to slow down and leave plenty of space between them and any other traffic. This means not only that drivers need the relevant training, but also that employers need to set reasonable expectations for their journey time.
Keeping feet on the ground
Very similar comments apply to walking in wet weather. When looking at managing wet weather conditions at work, your first action should be to see if there is any way you can create effective shelter. For example, you may be able to add canopies or some other form of (temporary) roofing over break areas and at least the key walkways. This promotes comfort as well as improving safety.
As wet grass is notoriously slippery, see if there is any opportunity to lay some sort of improved walk surface, basically anything which provides grip, even gravel. If not, encourage workers to walk around the area if possible and if not to be particularly careful on it. Good footwear like industrial safety boots can really go a long way to making workplaces both safe and comfortable. Grip is of the utmost importance and waterproofing helps avoid wet feet, which is probably the ultimate miserable experience. You could also guide workers to buy appropriate socks, such as ones with further waterproofing.
NB: Post-rainfall periods can also be hazardous. Areas may dry unevenly so that some parts of them are still slipping hazards while other parts of them are fine. In this situation, it’s important to use some sort of marker, such as signs or cones, to indicate the hazardous area.
Stopping workers getting soaked
Working outdoors in the wet can actually be fun if you’re well-protected against it. Waterproof trousers, jackets and gloves are therefore important investments and ideally should have enhanced visibility for improved safety.
Peter Scully is a marketing consultant for health and safety clothing retailer Image To Suit You, based in North London.