British weather isn’t known for its extremes but that doesn’t mean that those exposed to the elements - even in the UK - aren’t at risk. This country is certainly known for its rain, though. It’s anecdotal evidence the world round that British people (especially Glaswegians) and Seattleites alike enjoy copious amounts of rain. When most of us will be running for the wellies, macs, and brollies, when it’s wet and cold - and, perhaps, venturing indoors - those who work outside don't get the luxury. So what about those who do work outside? Are there any specific ‘working in the rain’ regulations? What are employers’ responsibilities when it comes to weather - if any - and, more specifically, rain? Find out what you need to know about working under wet conditions.
Working in the Rain Regulations: What Should You Know?
Okay, so are there any specific working in the rain regulations? The answers is yes and no. No, nothing says that your workers shouldn’t work in the rain, but you do have to have safety measures in place by providing suitable protective clothing that may need to be insulating or heat resistant (depending on if it’s hot or cold). You’ll need to acclimatise your workers to their environment. Train your workers on any precautions they need to take. Make sure you supervise the environment to make sure everyone is as safe as possible. Make sure your workers are wearing slip-resistant safety footwear.
Most know that The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations of 1992 stipulate that protective equipment must be provided to employees for free. The equipment should be fit for purpose, fit correctly, and be properly maintained. Employers must also provide training on how to use the equipment. In 2002, regulations were updated to note that equipment must be CE-marked. Make sure your health and safety policy is up to date.
It’s a given that snow exposure can increase the likelihood of slipping and falling accidents, which can damage muscle and bone, but most don’t realise the damage when exposed to rain and cold.
Those working in the rain are just as likely to be injured by slips, trips, and falls. Those working at heights are the most at risk. 15% of all deaths are from roofers working on wet roofs, yet they still have to be up there!
When driving, stopping distances can double, so it’s important that vehicles are aware of conditional changes and adapt accordingly.
Exposure to cold and rain can cause chilblains, and, in more serious cases hypothermia and frostbite.
Chilblains cause damage to the capillaries from repeated cold exposure, and usually occur on the cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes with symptoms of redness and itching. Treat by warming the skin with warm (not hot) water. Do not scratch affected areas, and use anti-inflammatory cream to reduce itchiness.
If your skin reaches minus one degrees centigrade, then you can get frostbite. Usually from handling frozen foods, metal, or when you’re in wet conditions. It usually affects the nose, ears, fingers, and toes, causing numbness and paleness. If you have frostbite, you must get warm indoors, but not near a heater or fire as that can cause severe damage.
Hypothermia results when the body temperature drops too low. If this happens, you’ll be fatigued, shiver, lose coordination, and be confused. Your skin may turn blue, have dilated pupils, a slow pulse, may become unconscious, have slowed breathing, and stop shivering. Look out for these symptoms in your coworkers. If this happens, then the victims should be taken somewhere warm. Remove all wet clothing and warm the chest, neck head and groin first. Call an ambulance.
Protecting Yourself from the Elements
In rainy conditions, you’ll want waterproof clothing, and waterproof shoes or safety boots. Waterproof clothing, however, is not always windproof, and, after hours of exposure, it’s not always waterproof either! When you’re wet and cold, you’re at even more risk.
Make sure you wear clothing that meets PPE regulations, and protects you from the elements.
Workplace Temperature: Legal Requirements
The law, however, does regulate minimum workplace temperature (but not maximum). Temperatures indoors have to be “reasonable.” The minimum temperature is usually 16 degrees Celsius. If you’re working and moving rigorously - such as in outdoor work - the minimum temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. However, the grey area is that employers have the duty to determine what is considered reasonable and comfortable. But a thorough risk assessment should be done in all conditions - including rainy conditions - and your employer has a duty to protect you from harm.
Prioritise Safety in Adverse Conditions
Make sure you have site supervisors who are trained in recognising conditions caused by the rain and cold - such as frostbite, chilblains, and hypothermia. Report all incidents and treat immediately. It’s also a good idea to limit exposure, and rotate workers so all equipment works properly. For example, since waterproofing doesn’t always last all day, give your workers opportunities for breaks, to change clothes, and get dry and warm before sending them in those conditions again. Rotate workers to avoid these problems too, or - on very wet and cold days - try and find alternative jobs. Always make sure your staff have the right equipment for conditions.
Are you 100% PPE compliant? Make sure safety is top priority during rainy conditions with our free checklist.
Find out what equipment you need for rainy conditions by downloading our FREE PPE compliance checklist. Discover how to maintain, store, and reorder the right equipment for the job whilst meeting stringent regulations.