Safety Alert 109 - Working safely in cold weather

Why is cold weather a hazard?

With cold, wintery weather comes many extra considerations for your hazard assessment. Wet, slippery, or icy surfaces increase the risk of slips, trips and falls. Cold temperatures also increase the risk of muscle injuries like repetitive strain injury (RSI) and other muscular skeletal disorders (MSD).

Increased risk of slips, trips and falls

Surfaces like scaffolds, stairs, driveways, ladders, and roofs can be increasingly hazardous when wet or icy. Working on and around these surfaces, without implementing suitable controls, can lead to serious accidents that cause preventable injuries to the head, back and/or joints.

Ways to reduce your risk

A range of actions can be implemented to reduce these risks, including:

·       Keeping walkways clear and dry.

·       Wear boots with good grip or use a grip enhancer (e.g. boot grip spray)

·       Don’t work on the roof when wet. Wait for it to dry or return on another day.

·       Reschedule work around the weather where possible.

·       Wipe and dry your boots before climbing a ladder or scaffold – carry a small towel or microfibre cloth in your tool kit in winter for this purpose.

Increased risk of sprains, strains and soft tissue injuries

Although sprains, strains and other soft tissue injuries (e.g. damage to ligaments, tendons, and muscle tissues) may sound like minor injuries, they can have serious, long term impacts that could see you out of work for an extended period of time.

The risk of these kind of injuries is increased during winter and cold weather.  Cold weather can also exacerbate existing injuries by causing an already bothersome muscle or tendon to tense up or tighten. As a result, more force is required to move your joints and soft tissues.

Without their usual quickness or elasticity, your muscles, tendons and ligaments are at a higher risk for strains, pulls, tears and other injuries.

Additionally, the cold impairs your body’s ability to function efficiently by requiring more energy to maintain a normal body temperature. When cold, your body will do whatever it takes to make sure your core body temperature is consistent, allowing the limb muscles to lose the most heat by limiting blood flow to them. This makes your muscles, tendons and ligaments more vulnerable to injury.

Ways to reduce your risk

Here are a few suggestions to help prevent these injuries:  

·       Perform an adequate warm-up: Perform at least three to five minutes of light activity and stretches, gradually increasing your intensity level until you are ready to work at full capacity.

·       Dress in warm layers: Once you have gotten your muscles warm, you will need to keep them that way. The best method is by dressing in plenty of warm layers so that you can add or remove clothing as needed.

·       Decrease your intensity: To prevent cold-weather injuries, you may need to decrease the intensity of your task. When undertaking a manual task for prolonged periods, shorten your work periods and take more regular breaks from the task.



·       Listen to your body and warm up at a level that enables you to work safely.

·       Dress for the weather, you can always remove layers throughout the day.


Keep dry!  Keep warm!  Keep safe!



For further information regarding this Safety Alert, please contact EGT on (08) 6241 6100 or speak with your Field Officer.

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