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    Adverse Weather

    Adverse Weather: Keeping employees safe in extreme weather conditions

    Published on March 8th, 2023 | by Sophie West

    A cold weather alert has been issued for all of England as much of the country braces for snow and icy conditions.

    So now is the prime time for you to review your adverse weather policy and procedures, and how you will create a safer workplace for your employees.

    Working outdoors in adverse weather can be a risky undertaking, and employers need to take steps to ensure the safety of their employees. This includes having an adverse weather policy in place that outlines the steps that should be taken when bad weather is forecasted. Employers must also carry out an outside risk assessment and ensure they are aware of their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and ensuing regulations.

    By taking the necessary precautions, employers can help protect their employees from the risks associated with working outdoors in bad weather. This article will discuss how to prepare for adverse weather conditions and what employers need to consider when creating an adverse weather policy.

    Preparing for adverse weather

    Preparing for adverse weather requires careful planning and preparation. Whether you’re working outside in the snow or dealing with bad weather, it’s important to have a plan in place to keep yourself and your team safe. In this blog post, we’ll cover some of the key steps you can take to prepare for adverse weather.

    First and foremost, it’s essential to have an adverse weather policy in place. This policy should outline your organisation’s approach to dealing with adverse weather and the responsibilities of both employees and management. It should also provide guidance on how to assess outside risks and make decisions about whether it’s safe to work in the conditions.

    Adverse Weather Policy: What is it and why do you need one?

    Adverse weather is defined as weather conditions which: have unusual consequences which affect working conditions and prevent staff from getting to work.

    Examples might include snow, freezing temperatures, high winds, or torrential rain.

    An adverse weather policy should include information on what is expected of employees in relation to travelling to work during periods of bad weather. It should also set out arrangements for if the weather deteriorates during the work day.

    It should outline:

    • That employees are expected to make every effort to get to work.
    • How the absence will be managed and whether missed time will need to be worked back or will go unpaid. 
    • When other policy provisions may apply to an absence e.g. school or nursery closures that prevent attendance
    • How an absence will be managed if there is no genuine reason for the absence

    Clear communication is often the most effective way to maintain good employee relations.

    You should, also, include adverse weather in your Health and Safety Policy.  This could include commitments on:

    • What steps you will take to protect staff, customers, visitors, etc. who visit your workplaces in adverse weather conditions.  For example, are there certain jobs that won’t be done, equipment that won’t be used, etc. in adverse weather conditions?
    • What your general approach is on gritting car parks.
    • Any changes to working practices, e.g. additional breaks for taking hot drinks, or any additional personal protective equipment, staff will be given for working in adverse weather conditions.

    Risk Assessments

    Conducting an outside risk assessment is another critical step in preparing for adverse weather. This assessment should be done well in advance of any anticipated adverse weather conditions and should take into account factors like temperature, wind speed, and precipitation. Based on the results of the assessment, you can determine whether it’s safe to work outside, and what precautions need to be taken to mitigate risks. 

    Of course, it’s not just the responsibility of employees to take precautions during adverse weather. Employers also have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers. This includes providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring vehicles are equipped for winter weather conditions, and taking measures to prevent slips and falls on ice and snow.

    Understanding the legal responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

    Finally, it’s essential to be aware of the legal requirements around adverse weather. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a legal duty on employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This includes taking all reasonably practicable steps to protect them from adverse weather conditions.


    You should regularly review your policies and procedures to ensure that they are up to date and effective, and continue to train your employees on how to work safely in adverse conditions. By following these steps, you can take proactive measures to prepare for adverse weather and minimise the risks to yourself and your team. You can help ensure that you and your team stay safe and healthy, no matter what the weather throws your way.

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