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01st February 2016

The outdoor hazards in winter

The cold icy winter weather is here and has dug its heels in. Are you and the residents of your care home looking through the windows willing the rain and wind to stop and warmer weather to come?

Staff still need to travel to and from work and will be outside for a part of the day taking rubbish to bins, clearing leaves and doing other activities. Residents will need to go to appointments and attend events in other areas. They must brave the obstacles or potential hazards that the weather has created.

This article will take you through what hazards to consider when heading outside in poor weather, whether you're off to the bins or supporting a resident to an appointment.

Risk assessments

Let’s start with an example of one work activity that needs to occur. A support worker is supporting a resident to an appointment which is located two miles from the residential home.

The support worker needs to consider the following:

  • Is there a need for the trip to take place in adverse weather conditions or could it be moved to a date when the weather is better for travelling?
  • Consider how the journey is made – is it a car, a bus or train journey? If it is a bus journey then other factors will need to be considered like waiting in the cold wet weather with little protection. In this scenario it would be advisable to take a taxi for the journey if this can be done.
  • Is one support worker enough to support the resident or would it be better with two? This is largely dependent on the resident’s capabilities assessed during the risk assessment process.
  • Has the resident the right clothing to wear outside during the journey? Will they be adequately protected from further temperature changes? It is easy to get sick in the cold winter months and everyone is vulnerable to catching colds and flu.

Other weather-related hazards that staff need to be aware of:

  • The ground conditions caused by falling wet leaves and icy surfaces can lead, very easily, to slipping and falling.
  • On windy days the branches may snap and fall leading to a person getting injured. In very windy conditions trees may fall.
  • Blizzard conditions can cause a reduction in visibility leading to difficulty in taking the right route and getting lost.
  • Power cuts brought on by falling trees may lead to loss of outdoor lighting which means difficulty in seeing uneven ground or dangerous walking conditions.
  • Even a light fall of snow can bring major difficulties in travelling to and from work.


In summary the following advice should be taken when going outside in adverse weather conditions:

  • Only go out if it is absolutely necessary
  • Be prepared, whether that may be for a journey on foot, by bus, train or car
  • Wear warm clothing that provides protection against the elements
  • Wear good quality footwear
  • Take a mobile phone in case of emergencies or if you get into difficulty
  • Let someone know your expected time of arrival or return
  • Take a torch if you are travelling in evenings as it is dark at 4pm onwards. There is a torch app that you can add to the phone as a back up
  • Take emergency supplies if you are travelling by car
  • Ensure your car is ready for winter with antifreeze, tyre checks, windscreen washer and a full fuel tank
  • Take heed of weather forecast warnings and follow advice
  • If the need to travel is required but the time of the appointment isn't fixed then travel early in the day when there is better light

 On a brighter note spring is almost here. So let’s enjoy winter and all that it offers while we can.

QCS policies

QCS has guidance and policies for the management of health and safety to support your service in meeting your regulatory requirements.

Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor

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