Winter Driving Health & Safety

Winter can prove to be an extremely hazardous time to drive with darker, shorter days and fewer hours of daylight, here are our tips for winter driving.

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Written by: alcumus
13th November

Cold conditions, coupled with the increased chance of wet, icy, and snow-covered road surfaces, can lead to stopping distances doubling if the road surface is wet. These distances increasing by tenfold if the road surface is icy or covered with snow. In addition, cold, clear and sunny winter days can also bring additional hazards such as strong glare which can prove to be blinding for many motorists.

The conditions outlined can all increase the level of risk for the road user. Whether driving for business or pleasure, the risks should not be ignored.

If you have ever broken down, you will no doubt agree that it is not a pleasant experience, especially if you had to wait for you vehicle to be recovery while standing at the side of the road or on the hard shoulder of motorway on a cold winter’s day.

Therefore, you need to be prepared to handle the difficult driving conditions that might result during the forthcoming winter months.

Pre-driving checks

Here are a few checks you can carry out to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared for winter driving:

  • Make sure your vehicle is in a road worthy condition.
  • Always check the weather forecast before you start your journey; if the weather is looking particularly bad then delay your trip until the weather has improved.
  • Plan your route before you start your journey, let someone know your route and expected time of arrival, always allow extra time for winter journeys.
  • Always keep a full tank of fuel you never know when you might get delayed.
  • Ensure that you have suitable breakdown cover.
  • Keep your lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow, remember to also clear the snow from the roof of your vehicle before you start your journey.       
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.
  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles.
  • Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure
  • Carry a winter driving kit in case of emergency, this might include, a snow/ice scraper, fully charged mobile phone, de-icer, winter coats for all passengers etc.

Motorists need to be fully aware of the road conditions during the winter months and be prepared to adapt to the ongoing changing conditions.  Even the most experienced drivers can find themselves getting into difficulties.

Legal obligations for employers

Private motorists in the UK must meet certain legal obligations. These include holding a valid driving licence, registering the vehicle, insuring and taxing the vehicle, and ensuring a valid MOT certificate is available for the vehicle.

However, there are additional legal obligations the employer must comply with when employees are required to drive while at work. Managing the risks to employees who drive at work requires more than just the employer’s compliance with UK road traffic legislation.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires every employer to undertake an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their work-based activities. These risk assessments will need to include details of the time their employees spend driving while at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle.

The risk assessments will need to identify any risks that result from any work-based driving activities. The assessments will also need to highlight the control measures that have been introduced by the employer to manage those risks.

The regulations require that work-based driving risk assessments are available, and that the assessments are reviewed periodically by the employer to ensure they remains valid and compliant. Employers need consider the risks to employees who drive on Company business in the same way as for any other employee.

How Alcumus PSM can help

For further information and advice on workplace risk assessments please contact Alcumus PSM to speak to one of our qualified Consultants who can advise you further on 01484 439930 or email [email protected].

Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Written by Gary Graham BA(hons), CMIOSH, OSHCR, Health & Safety Consultant