I don’t know about you, but I’ve got colleagues who can’t wait for the launch of the annual Christmas Advert campaigns, when the big retailers compete to grab our attention.
For me though, they simply serve as a reminder that I need to start preparing my car for the very worst that winter can throw at us.
At some point in the next 3 months or so, we are likely to face harsh weather on our journey, especially as it gets worse over winter.
It’s worth remembering that severe weather is not just about snow and ice. It includes strong winds and floods too as has been shown in the recent tragic deaths in floods in Scotland.
Even without bad weather, now that the clocks have gone back, we all face driving in the dark which also means its worth checking things like headlamp bulbs and fog lamps.
More than half of all calls for roadside assistance are due to winter-related breakdowns.
Respect the elements
So, the first rule of being prepared is always to listen out for weather warnings and be prepared to change or delay your journey depending on advice being given.
In extremely bad weather the best advice is to stay off the road. If you must drive, make sure you are prepared for the conditions. The clocks going back is also a timely reminder that winter is nearly upon us.
Below are a few simple tips you should take to ensure your safety whilst at home and at work.
- Check local and national weather forecasts
- Listen to local and national radio for travel information
- Tell someone what time you expect to arrive
- Think about taking warm clothes, boots and a torch - it could be a long walk to a phone
- Clear your windows and mirrors of snow and ice before you set off
- Make sure your phone is fully charged before you set off and take a charger with you
Did you know:
- According to the Met Office, the UK gets an average of 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet per year. In Scotland this number increases to 38.1 days
- The average number of days that snow settles on the ground is 15.6 days. In Scotland this number increases to 26.2 days
- According to the Highways Agency, 290,000+ tonnes of salt is stored for gritting
- 3,900 injuries are caused by low winter sun each year
- The Highway Code recommends dipped headlights when visibility is 100m or less
Bad weather travel tips
In brief these are the 10 key points to think about when travelling in winter (& in general)
1. Check for weather warnings
Make sure you listen out for weather warnings and be prepared to change, delay or even cancel your journey depending on advice being given.
On your smartphone, you can enable notifications for severe weather, rain and snow. Just follow the instructions via your smartphone weather app and check for notifications prior to starting your journey.
Remember: Wet, damp and cold weather also plays havoc with vehicles and can cause major headaches with breakdowns due to battery faults, minor accidents and mechanical problems.
2. UK weather warning indicators
YELLOW: Many are issued when it is likely that the weather will cause some low level impacts, including some disruption to travel in a few places. It is important to read the content of yellow warnings to determine which weather situation is being covered by the yellow warning.
AMBER: There is an increased likelihood of impacts from severe weather, which could potentially disrupt your plans and cause travel delays. You should think about changing your plans and taking action to protect yourself and your property.
RED: Dangerous weather is expected and, if you haven’t already done so, you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the severe weather. It is very likely that there will be a risk to life, with substantial disruption to travel, energy supplies and possibly widespread damage to property and infrastructure. You should avoid travelling, where possible, and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.
Remember, these weather warning indictors affect all methods of transport, including road, rail and air.
3. Check your route
It is essential that you check your route before setting out. Check the real-time traffic information provided through television, radio, or the internet. This can highlight road closures and enable you to pick the safest route to your destination.
“Always be well prepared in winter regardless of the weather. Plan your journey and remember that although it is fine, dry and clear where you are it does not mean that it will remain so during your journey. Check conditions along the entire route before you set out and listen to updates as you travel.
If conditions are poor, or the forecast is to get worse, then give serious consideration whether the journey is necessary. If in doubt, check with your Manager. Vehicle maintenance is also crucial, particularly lights, tyres and fluid levels. Make sure your vehicle is in good running order before you leave.”
4. Look after your vehicle
According to road rescue organisations, October through to February are their busiest months, with calls for assistance rising by as much as 26 per cent compared with the rest of the year. More than half of all calls for roadside assistance are due to winter-related breakdowns.
Look after your vehicle. It’s easy to think that because your vehicle has been running fine up until now, that nothing needs doing to it before winter sets in. Something as small as low tyre pressure can have a huge impact on your ability to stop in an emergency. So, always be prepared.
Top safety tips to carry out regularly
- Make sure your vehicle is properly serviced. Preventative maintenance is the best way to reduce the risk of your vehicle breaking down.
- Make sure the anti-freeze in the radiator is checked and if necessary topped up or replaced. This is vital to aid good starting on cold mornings.
- Getting a better grip on the road takes more tyre tread in wet or icy conditions. Ensure your tyres are inflated to the manufacturers’ recommended pressure and have sufficient tread depth.
The key check points
- Tread: The ideal tread depth is at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the centre 3/4 of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre (FOR COMPANY CAR DRIVERS - our leasing company will change tyres at 2mm).
- Lights: Check they are all working and clean.
- Windows: Keep de-icer, an ice scraper and warm hi-vis clothing in your vehicle. Ensure that your windows are cleared and de-misted before you set off!
- Car – Ensure that any excess snow has been removed from your bonnet, roof and boot areas.
- Windscreen: Make sure your wiper blades aren’t worn so you can keep your windscreen as clean as possible to cope with the extra spray, ice and rain you get in winter.
- Mirrors : Dirty mirrors (and windows) can make it hard to see as the low winter sun hits.
5. Watch out in low winter sun
The low winter sun can dazzle even the most confident and experienced drivers. The glare can easily impair your vision and cause you to miss signs and lights, or pedestrians crossing the road. If you can’t see very well, chances are that other road users can’t either.
Safety tips to help avoid the dangers of low winter sun:
- Reduce your speed or stop all together.
- Wear sunglasses in bright sunlight.
- Make sure your windscreen and all vehicle windows are clean, both inside and out.
6. Prepare a basic emergency kit
It is never a good idea to stand on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway during winter wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Carrying the correct equipment can make a real difference if you breakdown, or even worse, get stranded.
We don’t issue every employee who drives with equipment, however it doesn’t prevent you being proactive and having in your car some essentials.
Emergency kit list
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- High visibility jacket/vest
- Warm clothes
- Suitable footwear for the conditions
- Food and a warm drink in a flask for particularly cold weather
- Sunglasses to protect from the glare from the low winter sun
7. Lower your risk of accidents
Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you by 6-8 seconds to allow extra stopping distance.
Use your signals and indicators early and clearly, and make sure you have plenty of time and space when turning or changing lanes.
Slow down before you reach bends in roads, steer through a bend at a steady speed and don’t accelerate or brake until you have driven through the bend.
8. Avoid slips, trips and falls
Weather-related accidents aren’t only limited to driving, they can also happen on foot. When you know your environment so well, it’s easy to overlook the subtle dangers that winter brings. At this time of year, wet or icy surfaces and less daylight can cause accidents.
Safety tips to help reduce the risk of a slip, trip or fall:
- Take extra time.
- Be extra aware of your environment and hidden hazards.
- Wear appropriate footwear
- Report poor lighting on site, in offices, and walkways
9. The impact of alcohol
Most of us have had days where we’ve felt the effects of the night before, but one extra pint on a night out can have serious consequences the next day.
If alcohol is still in your system the morning after, think about the impact that could have when driving your colleagues to site or taking your children to school.
Safety tips to help reduce the risk, and to enjoy alcohol responsibly:
Remember that the Mitsubishi Electric policy states that you must never be under the influence of drugs at alcohol while at work, or when travelling to and from work.
- When taking prescription drugs, always ask your GP about any possible side effects, plus, it’s always helpful to share information about your prescription drugs (and their side effects) with your line manager.
10. Talk about mental wellbeing
Whilst this isn’t travel specific, there is often an increase in people feeling low in the winter season.
This could be due to post-holiday blues, or something like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition that is related to depression.
It is important that we are all aware of each other’s moods and behaviour. The earlier you talk about how you are feeling, and access the right support, the better it can be to help you to remain safe and healthy at work.
Safety tips to help maintain mental health and wellbeing in the workplace:
- If you notice a change in the mood or behaviour of the people you work with, ask them how they are and if they would like to talk about it.
- If you are feeling low or depressed, speak to someone – a friend, family member, colleague or GP. Find out whether your organisation has Mental Health First Aiders.
- We’ve written on The Hub before about the mental health and the construction industry. You can read more by clicking here.
Enjoy the Festive Season but please put your safety first
Darren Farrington, SHEQ Manager