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Don't let your carers slip up this winter

As 2019 draws closer and the weather gets colder, making sure that your patients, residents and colleagues are kept safe this winter should be your priority.

It’s not only the people on your premises that you need to keep safe, but also employees who travel during their working hours and the people that you provide care services to.

The cold weather increases risks of accidents and illness. There are many hazards and risks that cold weather can bring, ranging from treacherous driving conditions, increased risk of colds of flu and slips, trips or falls.

Here are some tips for you as an employer, to help keep those you are responsible for safe:

Safety around your premises

Slips, trips and falls

The risk of slips, trips and falls increases in the winter due to the icy ground conditions outside1. For elderly people, even slight falls can cause serious injuries which can have ongoing complications. In 2014/15 there were 2,919 hospital admissions due to people falling over on ice or snow1.

10 ways to help minimise the risks:

  • Help your residents or patients when on slippery surfaces
  • Ensure your residents or patients wear suitable footwear for better traction
  • Ensure your residents or patients wear clothing that could soften a blow if they fall
  • Try to minimise the need to go outside
  • Spread grit around your premises
  • Encourage people to use gritted areas and to not take shortcuts
  • Encourage people to wipe their feet when entering your premises
  • Consider encouraging residents to use a stick or walking pole and take small steps
  • Install adequate rails around your premises for people to hold onto
  • Put up safety signage

Clearing ice and snow

It’s important to make sure that footpaths around your premises are kept clear of snow and ice where possible. Slips, trips and falls are the most common types of accident, and if you leave ice and snow around your premises, there is more risk of this happening.

Taking care to clear ice and snow reduces the likelihood that you’ll be sued or held responsible if someone is injured, but you must make sure that:

  • You do not make conditions worse by creating a sheer icy surface. Don’t just pour boiling water over the pavement and then leave it
  • You must keep on top of the ice and snow, if the weather conditions are bad, it will come back.

Winter driving

If your colleagues travel during working hours to care for clients in their homes or if you’re a doctor making a home visit, it’s important to be aware of the heightened risks on the road. Our driving tips to keep your employees safe article gives some helpful advice about how to look after your employees who drive as part of their role.

Staying safe in your home

Cold weather causing illness

If you’re visiting clients or patients, be aware of the risk of hypothermia. Simple steps can help prevent this such as making sure that the people you care for regularly have hot drinks and eat hot meals. Make sure that they have enough warm clothing on and if possible that they move regularly.

Keeping your employees and residents healthy

There’s plenty of advice about how to keep your working conditions to the expected standards during bad weather and cold snaps.

You can find information on minimum temperatures for work and protective equipment amongst other subjects on the HSE website, to keep your employees healthy.

Other things to consider:

  • Make sure residents and staff get a flu vaccination each year. This will reduce the risk of an outbreak on your premises4.
  • Have a good employee benefits program. This can improve your employee wellness all year round. Here are 10 ways to improve your employee wellness.

Sources:

  1. https://www.rospa.com/resources/hubs/winter/
  2. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/data-tools-and-services/data-services/hospital-episode-statistics
  3. https://www.prestige-nursing.co.uk/safety/safety-tips-for-the-elderly/ 
  4. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733351/Guidance_on_outbreaks_of_influenza_in_Care_home_outbreak_A3_.pdf 
  5. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg174.pdf
  6. http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.htm
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