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Fire Safety and Risk Assessments

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment helps you to identify risks from fire hazards on your premises and work out what actions you need to take to make sure any risk is as low as reasonably possible.

Help with the fire risk assessment?

A responsible person must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. This will identify what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe.

You can do the fire risk assessment yourself with the help of standard fire safety risk assessment guides. Alternatively, if you do not have the expertise or time to do the fire risk assessment yourself you need to appoint a ‘competent person’ to help, contact us for further details.

You’ll need to consider:

  • emergency routes and exits
  • fire detection and warning systems
  • fire fighting equipment
  • the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
  • an emergency fire evacuation plan
  • the needs of vulnerable people, for example, the elderly, young children, or those with disabilities
  • providing information to employees and other people on the premises
  • staff fire safety training

We have put together an infographic. I would recommend that you share the information with employees as it could be beneficial to them.

Contact us for further information.

Fire Safety Infographic

Working at Height Toolbox Talk

Why have this talk? More than one third of accidents that killed workers in 2019–20 were from falls from height. 50% of all falls over 2 metres result in death.

What will this talk cover? The hazards faced and how to prepare if you are working at height.

Working at Height Toolbox Talk

Working at Height Toolbox Talk

What is working at height?

Any work situation where you could fall and injure yourself and others. So it includes working above or below ground level on platforms, trap hatches, on top of vehicles as well as ladders and roofs.

Hazards to consider when working at height

  • The type of work.
  • How many people will be working at height and for how long.
  • Whether there are different access points and bottlenecks.
  • Whether falling objects (such as dropped tools) present a danger.
  • How far is the potential fall and therefore risk of injury.
  • What equipment can mitigate the risk (eg guard rails, toe boards, harnesses) and how often are they inspected/maintained.
  • To what extent the weather (rain, ices, snow, wind, sun) will affect working conditions, surfaces and safety.
  • The competency of the workers involved.
  • Evacuation and emergency procedures.

Before working at height

  • Consider whether the work can be done from the ground, or even if parts of it can be done on the ground.
  • Before any work at height or access onto a roof, fragile materials should be identified, and control measures defined and implemented.
  • Roof-edge barriers (or scaffold), also known as edge-protection, must be erected to prevent people and materials falling.
  • Any ladders used for access to the area where work at height is taking place must extend at least one metre above the stepping off point and must be secured.
  • Where access ladders rise above nine metres, a safe intermediate platform must be provided.
  • Ladders must be rested at the correct angle (1 unit out of 4 units in height).
  • Training must be provided for workers.

Safe working on roofs

  • Only competent operatives may be used for roofing work.
  • Crawling boards or ladders must be provided and used where the roof is liable to collapse under a person’s weight or the roof is sloping with a pitch over 10 degrees.
  • Where work is of short duration and the provision of guard-rails and toe boards is impracticable, safety harnesses must be used with suitable anchorage points provided.
  • Openings must be covered or guarded, if removed for the passage of workers or materials, it should be replaced immediately.

Questions for employees

  • What should be assessed before work at height starts?
  • What should you have if an access ladder extends beyond nine metres?
  • When would you use crawling boards?
  • Where work is of short duration, what practical safety precautions can be taken?

Contact us for further information


Warehouse health and safety tips

Warehouse health and safety tips

Warehouse health and safety tips

Why health and safety in a warehouse environment is so important

Health and safety procedures are paramount in any workplace, but warehousing roles present specific risks that all workers should be aware of. First, it’s important to note that we understand how easy it can be to to let initial training fall to the wayside as you grow in confidence and find yourself in an everyday routine – this is normal in many jobs.

However, letting your guard down in a high-risk environment can not only put you in danger, but it can also expose your colleagues to the risks of the work place too. So, it certainly pays to be educated when it comes to warehouse health and safety.

What are the warehouse requirements in the UK?

Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are certain requirements that must be met within the warehousing industry. Below are some of the main legal requirements for employers in the UK warehousing industry:

  • Employers, supervisors and managers must provide employees with adequate and appropriate welfare facilities. These include appropriate toilet facilities, adequate rest breaks and somewhere safe to eat and drink.
  • Environmental requirements such as lighting, temperature, cleanliness, floor conditions, falls or falling objects, ventilation and transparent doors must all be addressed by an employer by law.
  • Best practice must be maintained by management to ensure employees feel listened to, valued and considered in work place decisions.

It is imperative that all aspects of health and safety training are covered by management. These include training in:

  • Fire safety
  • Vehicles safety
  • Slips and falls
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Manual handling

Why is training so important for warehousing staff?

Warehousing logistics are complex, and typically this type of work environment never sleeps. For this reason alone, it can be a manic environment to be in, especially if you’re not up to date with recent training strategies.

There are a huge range of benefits to training warehousing staff, not least to improve efficiency, increase staff morale and offer job fulfilment, but also to equip staff with everything they need to stay safe at work.

As we have stated, warehouses pose a plethora of risks, from moving vehicles to high objects, there is the potential for all kinds of incidents to occur, and so it is vital that every person on the premises is equipped with the skills and knowledge to safely handle any workplace eventuality.

Fire safety

Due to the size and layout of most warehouses, the need for up to date and accurate fire safety training is absolutely paramount. Regular fire safety assessments and subsequent training is actually a workplace requirement regardless of the industry you’re in, but in the case of warehouses which have a number of hazards, it’s even more important that this is kept on top of.

Did you know?
In 2004 (England and Wales) fire and rescue services attended over 33,400 fires in non-domestic buildings. These fires killed 38 people and injured over 1,300.

Things that must be carried out by employers, supervisors or management include:

  • Appointing a person or persons to carry out any preventative or protective measures required by the Fire Safety Order.
  • Make all employees aware of the risks of fire in your particular premises.
  • Allocate appropriate people to carry out certain fire safety related roles.
  • Inform any visitors (non-employees) of the risks of fire in your particular premises.
  • Must consider the presence of any dangerous substances and the risk this presents to relevant persons from fire.
  • Provide appropriate information and training to employees during normal working hours, about fire precautions in the workplace. This must first be done as soon as employment commences, and be updated regularly.

Some important fire safety measures which should be carried out in the workplace include:

  • Regular fire drills– offering regular (weekly) fire drills will help to enforce the fire safety procedure for all employees and will help to prepare the team in the case of a real-life fire.
  • Weekly fire alarm testing– testing your fire alarms once a week in accordance with fire alarm regulations ensures your fire alarms are fully operational at all times.
  • Emergency lighting – Emergency lighting and exit signs are vital parts of a thorough fire safety procedure, and in the case of warehousing where there can be many hazards and obstacles this is a crucial aspect of the overall health and safety of employees.
  • Fire evacuation plans and wardens – it is important to ensure a plan has been put in place by management and has been effectively communicated to all relevant employees as to what to do in the case of a fire, and which individuals will be on hand to act as fire wardens in these scenarios.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Effective and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is often required as part of a larger health and safety strategy within a warehouse environment. It is important to ensure that you are wearing the appropriate attire to carry out your role, however this must be in conjunction with other measures in the case of your PPE failing.

It is a legal requirement here in the UK to supply all workers with appropriate PPE, and in a warehouse environment these can include:

  • Hard hats
  • High visibility jackets
  • Safety shoes
  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory masks

Along with appropriate training in the appropriate PPE, regular risk assessments must also be carried out in the warehouse to ensure the right PPE is in place. Where new risks occur, old measures may need to be removes, and different PPE may need to be put into place.

Vehicle safety

In most warehouses in-house vehicles are an essential aspect of every day. Used typically for the safe moving and handling of goods, workers operating such vehicles are required to hold specific licenses.

Did you know?
According to RIDDOR, there were 26 deaths in the workplace caused by being struck by a moving vehicle in the year 2016-17.

Training is essential not just for those handling warehouse vehicles, but also for others who may come into contact with vehicles during their working day. Thorough training on how to use vehicles, and knowledge of best practice can help to maintain a safe environment. Here are some things to consider:

  • Regular vehicle maintenance to ensure things are running as they should be
  • Enforce a strict speed limit for warehouse vehicles. This may differ depending on whether pedestrians are active in the area, but typically you must never exceed 5mph
  • Any employees being trained up to use vehicles such as forklifts must be of the correct legal age, which is 18 years of over

Slips and Trips

In any work environment there’s likely to be a risk of slips and trips, whether that’s in the kitchen or out on the shop floor. In a warehouse it can occur more easily due to things such as the surface of the floor, cables from vehicles or spills.

Here are some things you can do to avoid accidents from happening:

  • Make sure that things are neatly put away, so that they don’t cause falls or are in people’s path
  • Cord covers need to be placed across cords, if they are on the footpath or in an open area, this helps to prevent them as a trip hazard.

Manual Handling

A huge part of your work in a warehouse will likely involve moving and handling large, often heavy goods. Doing so without the proper training however can lead to severe injuries, some of which can even put you out of work.

Did you know?
Injuries whilst lifting, handling or carrying represents the largest number of non-fatal injuries in the workplace. In 2016/17 there were 122,000 reported injuries of this nature.

Luckily, there are simple things you can do to prevent injury from moving and handling goods, these include:

  • Ensuring control measures are in place. If you are unaware of any, speak to your supervisor or manager about this. Control measures are there so that people don’t end up hurting themselves or getting an injury from lifting something too heavy
  • Use appropriate machinery as and when necessary such as lift trucks, pallet trucks and trollies to avoid accidental injury – these should be used wherever possible
  • Ensure your manual handling training is up to date – do you know the manual handling weight limits? It’s 20-25kg – if you don’t know this, or the proper ways to handle heavy goods then ask for more training first

Incorrect handling can lead to a wealth of physical conditions, including the following:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Work related upper limb disorder


As well as the way you hold yourself and handle goods in transit, the way you pack them can also make a huge difference to your physical wellbeing. Below are some of our tips for the safe packing of goods:

  • Make sure that pallets are packed correctly, this can ensure the stability of the load
  • Securing your packed loads is important. Use shrink or stretch wrapping to offer additional support to pallets
  • Are your pallets safe before loading? If you can spot any splinters, breaks, holes or other obvious damage – then don’t load goods onto it
  • Don’t apply unnecessary weight by climbing or leaning on the pallets either before or during use. Standing on pallets before they are used can cause significant damage and can compromise the safety of the load

Are you up to date with healthy and safety procedures in the workplace?

Health and safety aren’t as straightforward as we might like, especially in high-risk environments such as warehouses. But it’s crucial that we stay educated and up to date with both theoretical and practical training in order to stay safe at work.

If you are unsure about any aspects of today’s guide, it may be worthwhile to have a conversation with your manager about training opportunities. After all, it pays to be prepared.

Contact us for further information.


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Fire Safety Doors

Emergency fire exit sign direction to doorway in the building green colour and narrow.

What are fire safety doors?

A fire safety door is a crucial safety feature of any building in which people live, work or visit. A fire safety door is a sealed door between compartments or areas. They act as a barrier to the spread of fire, heat and smoke, limiting its effect whilst allowing enough time for occupants to evacuate to a place of safety.

At a glance, fire safety doors don’t look too different from the other internal doors in a building. However, they need to be sturdy enough to stop the fire but otherwise easy to use under everyday circumstances. These dual roles are reflected in the doors’ design. A well-designed timber fire safety door will delay the spread of fire and smoke for perhaps up to 30 minutes, without causing too much hindrance to the everyday movement of people and goods. In other words, fire safety doors save lives.

How to identify a fire safety door

When you’re trying to identify a fire safety door, follow this simple check:

  • Certification. The most reliable way to identify a fire safety door is to look for its certification label.
  • Signage – Fire safety door regulations require signage clearly indicating that a fire safety door is indeed a fire safety door; this is not always upheld.
  • Gaps – The gaps around the tops and sides of the door should be less than 4mm thick. You can use a pound coin to check this; these are roughly 3mm thick.
  • Intumescent Seals – An intumescent seal is a heat-sensitive material which prevents the spread of flame and smoke by swelling in the event of a fire, and thus sealing the gap between door and frame. Check the frame and door profile for a thin strip running down the middle.
  • Hinges – A fire safety door should always have a minimum of three hinges.
  • Closing Mechanism – A fire safety door should close itself firmly from a halfway-open position and should not stick.

The differences between a fire safety door and a fire exit door

The issue of fire safety doors and fire exits can be confusing. A fire safety door is an internal door.

Examples of locations of fire safety doors include but are not limited to:

  • Stairwells, where they protect the stairs from corridors opening on to them.
  • Kitchens / catering facilities.
  • Storage areas that house combustible materials such as paper and card.
  • Boiler rooms.

Fire safety doors have to be kept closed at all times unless certified fire safety door retainers are installed (not just a door wedge), which hold the fire safety door open until a fire alarm is set off.

A fire exit door on the other hand, is an external door. It can be left open and does not have to be fire resistant. The purpose of the fire exit door is to allow a quick and unhindered escape through a well-lit door into a place of safety while stopping unauthorised access from outside the building.

Fire exits doors should open easily and, wherever possible, in the direction of traffic flow. If it is a security door that is usually kept locked but will be used by members of the public in an emergency situation, it will have to be fitted with a panic or push bar. By enabling the swift passage of people to a place of safety, the final exit door will have performed its function; it does not have to be a fire safety door to accomplish this.

Fire exit doors can also be opened from the outside if, for example, a panic bar with a key lock override is fitted. Fire exits must never be obstructed and have to be clearly marked and well lit. Best practice dictates that fire exit signs are fitted above fire exits.

Types of fire safety doors

The effectiveness of a fire safety door, as well as the type required, is determined by its location in the building and the types of fire dangers it faces. There are various types of fire safety doors, ranging from different materials to different fire ratings and levels of protection.

Types of fires safety doors include:

Wooden Fire Safety Doors – Particleboard, flax board, timber or mag board are some of the different materials used to make the solid core found in most wooden fire safety doors. A lipping around the core with a veneer finish, MDF or plywood glued to the core or a timber frame with a laminated outer finish are some of the different ways in which the core is finished. Provided that the necessary fire rating is met, any of these finishing methods can be used. It is worth noting that you should always remember to use fire-retardant paint if you plan on painting a fire safety door made of wood.

Steel Fire Safety Doors – Whilst glass or wooden fire safety doors are known to provide around 30 to 60 minutes of fire protection on average, steel fire safety doors can extend this time to up to four hours. Thanks to their durable and strong nature, these fire safety doors may be preferred over other available options when enhanced security is required. In applications where higher levels of hygiene are necessary, such as hospitals and kitchens, among others, steel fire safety doors are also preferred as they are easy to clean.

Glass Fire Safety Doors – For internal doors that comply with all the necessary fire safety regulations, pyropanel glass fire safety doors are increasingly seen as a better looking alternative to the traditionally popular wooden and steel fire safety doors. Fire-rated glass must be used on all pyropanel fire safety doors. To prevent the spread of smoke and flames, fire-rated glass has been tested and approved as an effective barrier. It is also possible to prevent the spread of heat with some types of fire-rated glass. While ordinary glass cannot withstand temperatures over 120°Celsius, fire-rated glass can survive temperatures exceeding 900°Celsius. It is important for your glass fire safety door(s) to comply with the applicable fire safety guidelines, especially given that building fires normally burn hotter than 600°Celsius.

Double Fire Safety Doors – Double doors are an excellent fit for buildings with a higher number of occupants or wider door openings.

Pre-hung Fire Safety Doors – In a new build or large construction, pre-hung fire safety doors can be used to save money and time. A single package made up of various components, including the architraves, frame and leaf, is supplied ready for installation when using pre-hung fire safety doors. These doors are installed once all of the construction work is complete to decrease any risk of damage to the door, which would render it non-compliant with the applicable fire safety regulations.

Fire safety door ratings

The FD rating assigned to fire safety doors is dependent on the amount of time it can stand up to fire. A thorough fire risk assessment must be carried out when selecting a FD rating. Fire safety doors providing 30 minutes and 60 minutes of protection have an FD30 and FD60 rating, respectively. FD ratings are assigned after stress testing according to the guidelines laid out in BS 476 part 22:1987.

Some of the commonly seen ratings include:

  • FD30: 30 minutes of protection.
  • FD60: 60 minutes of protection.
  • FD90: 90 minutes of protection.
  • FD120: 120 minutes of protection.

Fire safety door regulations

Fire safety doors are a legal requirement in all non-domestic properties, such as businesses, commercial premises and public buildings. They are also required in residential flats and houses of multiple occupancy. In the event of a fire, internal fire safety doors are meant to divide the building into separate compartments. This way, for the amount of time indicated by the FD rating of the doors, occupants have a protected way out of the building or space.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 brought together several different pieces of legislation into one. It applied to all non-domestic premises, including communal areas of residential buildings with multiple homes. The Order also designated a “Responsible Person” for fire safety whose duty is to undertake assessments and manage risks, with the Order enforced by Fire and Rescue Authorities. The Order also covered any house in multiple occupation (HIMO) with shared facilities of any height.

The Fire Safety Act 2021 establishes new rules for any building, including flats, from two-unit conversions to multiple flats in purpose-built blocks. The Act prepares the ground for secondary legislation to implement the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report.

All fire safety doors must satisfy the disability regulations under the Equality Act 2010.

Fire safety door requirements for domestic buildings

In domestic buildings above two levels, every door leading to the stairwell at all levels must be a fire safety door, where the door leads to a habitable room.

Fire safety doors are also required:

  • In loft conversions.
  • Between a house and any integral garage.
  • Between the business and residential elements in a mixed-use building.

According to the new Fire Safety Act 2021 apartment owners or leaseholders need to make sure that fire safety doors are compliant by ensuring that:

  • The fire safety door(s) is fire rated. You will be able to tell if you have a fire safety door on your flat/apartment if it has a label attached to the head confirming its certification number and manufacturer. Alternatively, it may have a coloured plug inserted by the manufacturer which confirms that the door is at least a 30-minute resistant fire safety door.
  • The fire safety door(s) should be at least 44mm thick.
  • The fire safety door should be affixed to the door frame by three certified or BS approved hinges made of steel. These hinges should not be leaking oil, and should include intumescent material pads at the back of each hinge plate.
  • If the fire safety door is fitted with a letter plate, that is the plate that covers the letter box, then the door must have a certificate to prove that it is fire-resistant and smoke-stopping.
  • The fire safety door handle and lock must be fire rated and certified. They must be comparable with the door installed.
  • The gap between the door and frame must be between 3mm and 4mm and up to 10mm at the bottom of the door.
  • The fire safety door should have a self-closing device fitted either at the top or centre of the door.
  • The fire safety door should fully close onto its rebates; that is, the door stops.
  • The fire safety door must not be twisted in its frame and should sit flush into its rebates.
  • The fire safety door frame or the edge of the door must have combined heat and cold smoke seals installed. Older doors may have a 10mm seal, whilst later doors will have 15mm seals.
  • The fire safety door frame must be in a good state of repair with no major failings. It should be secured to its opening correctly with fire stopping being provided where the frame and wall meet along the top and either side.
  • The fire safety door must open fully and close unhindered at a reasonable speed.
  • If the fire safety door has glazing, then it must be rattle free and should be correctly installed with appropriate glazing proprietary systems in place. Any glazing panel in the door should have a Kitemark or be stamped to show that it will provide at least 30 minutes of fire resistance.
  • Unfortunately, cat flaps are not permissible in fire safety door installations. So, if your apartment/flat door has a cat flap it is not compliant with the Fire Safety Act 2021.

Fire safety door requirements for non-domestic buildings

The guidelines are categorised into two separate sections, based on vertical and horizontal escape routes, when it comes to commercial and non-domestic properties. The process of evacuating all occupants of a building with multiple levels using a flight of stairs is referred to as vertical evacuation. On the other hand, occupants move horizontally, into a fireproof compartment or space on the same level/floor, to get away from the fire, in horizontal evacuation.

While the decision between horizontal and vertical evacuation is made independently, per building, the safety and speed of each option when it comes to the evacuation of a building’s occupants is the main determining factor, with vertical evacuation being the best fit in most cases.

According to the Fire Safety Order 2005, this route must be lined with fire safety doors at the very least. The door’s surroundings, location and building type are all considered in an independent evaluation used to determine the most suitable FD rating of the fire safety doors to be installed.

In accordance with Article 3 of the 2005 Fire Safety Order, the installation of fire safety doors in a commercial building is the duty of a “responsible person”.

Fire safety door frame regulations

Door frames, to go with certificated fire safety doors, should conform to the requirements stated on the door leaf’s data sheet. Frames certificated to meet the requirements of specified door leaves can be purchased from the door leaf manufacturer, a company licensed to manufacture the door frames, or a distributor.

Fire safety door frames or linings can be made from various timbers and timber-based materials. They must match the species, type and density, profile and frame dimensions given in the door leaf’s data sheets and confirmed in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Fire safety door frames should be of the material types, density and dimensions, including the size of the stop, stated on the fire safety door leaf’s data sheet.

Fitting new fire safety doors into existing frames is risky because the existing frame may not be fit for purpose or compatible with the certification of the new fire safety door leaf. If you are fitting new fire safety doors and components into existing frames there are a number of checks that should be made on the frame before taking the decision to only upgrade the door leaf. If it is not compatible, then certification becomes invalid.

Fire safety door frames should be fitted into partition walls that have at least the same proven fire resistance as the resulting fire safety door assembly.

The limitations on the size of gap that is permitted between the door leaf and the frame is extremely important and is documented on the door leaf manufacturer’s data sheet. In general, the gap should be between 2mm and 4mm along the two long edges and across the top of the door leaf.

Fire safety door maintenance regulations

Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO/FSO) makes it a legal requirement to ensure that fire-resisting doors and escape doors are correctly installed and adequately maintained in order for them to be fit for purpose. The RRO/FSO applies to all buildings other than domestic housing, and replaces 118 pieces of previous fire legislation, including the old fire certificate.

The law now shifts responsibility from the fire authorities for fire safety to whoever has day-to-day control of premises. The authorities have the power to enforce the RRO/FSO and do prosecute or even close buildings down where breaches are discovered.

Just like any other passive fire protection system, it is essential for a fire safety door to perform as intended in the event of a fire. Any slight alteration to the door or its surroundings can affect the performance. As such, a fire safety door should be regularly checked to ensure it functions correctly and will perform to its designed standard in the event of a fire.

Periodic checks should be carried out at least once every six months although newly occupied buildings may require more frequent checks in the first year of use. Where the fire safety door is in high use, it should be checked more frequently than other doors in the building, for example once per week or month.

Regulations for installing fire safety doors

Depending on what type of fire safety door you buy, for example set versus assembly, you will need to have them installed in different ways. If you are installing a fire safety door set, the installation needs to meet EN 1634. If you are installing a fire safety door assembly, then the installation will need to meet BS 8214 2016. Any ironmongery used as part of a fire safety door assembly will need to meet BS EN 1906:2010 and BS EN 1935.

British standard for fire safety doors

Fire safety doors must conform to a British safety standard known as BS 476 Pt 22.

BS 8214: 2016 is the code of practice for fire safety door assemblies.

BSI, the British Standards Institution, has revised BS 8214 code of practice for fire safety door assemblies. The updated standard gives recommendations for the specification, installation and maintenance of timber-based fire safety doors. BS 8214 now includes updated guidance associated with the sealing between the door assembly and the surrounding structure.

The recommendations are applicable to timber-based hinged or pivoted pedestrian door assemblies or door leaves, fitted into frames of any material.

Other changes to the revised standard from its predecessor, BS 8214:2008, include new fire precautions in the design, construction and use of building to ensure the standard is harmonised with recently revised BS 9999 code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings.

BS 8214 was revised with suppliers of door assembly components in mind, many of whom are looking for ways to align their offering with the reliability of assembly offered by door sets. The revised standard reflects changes in the industry to meet its usability, particularly in relation to the installation and maintenance of fire safety doors, and is particularly relevant to those who work in the fire performance and smoke control sectors.

Contact us for further information.


Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Staying motivated in winter can be hard for businesses and employees; we suffer the winter blues for a range of reasons. Burnout is a specific problem requiring medical help. But diet, being active, socialising — plus small interventions by ordinary companies — can help too.

Whatever the weather, deep mid-winter can be a time of low spirits as well as joy at work, at home and out and about. Some negative feelings have clinical roots. For other work colleagues, it is a matter of hanging on until light nights and longer days reset their biological clocks.

However, there are also steps recommended by health professionals, plus simple things that individuals and companies can do, to help us work more happily and safely in the dark times.

While the days get longer

The journey through December, Christmas and the early New Year can be a rollercoaster ride for many people that now leads up to the informal day of Blue Monday on the basis that the third Monday in January could be seen as the least inspiring day of the year once winter festivities are finally over.

True or false, the date may be a good time to be looking out for tell-tale signs that some co-workers may be suffering from seasonal strains and stresses for reasons beyond their immediate control more than others and need extra support.

The turn of the year for most workers is probably not a time they want to spend thinking about work. However, for many, workplaces can be an essential source of support, reassurance and friendship.

For the second year running, winter, 2021/2022 is overshadowed by Covid-19 restrictions, concerns about a mixed economic recovery, plus climate change anxieties that have gathered around the COP26 climate summit and its long-term fallout.

A spectrum of conditions

Many people suffer physical and mental winter health impacts for a number of reasons, from straightforward worries, to burnout which the World Health Organisation (WHO) now classifies as a bona fide medical condition, plus SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is said to affect up to 1 in 10 people.

Identifying and avoiding burnout

Burnout, it is now generally agreed, is an occupational phenomenon rather than a medical condition caused by excessive or prolonged work-related stress which is seen in combinations of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. This means that employers have a duty of care.

The SAD truth

Exposure to daylight is a key factor. According to the NHS, the winter blues — or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — may affect around two million people in the UK and more than 12 million across northern Europe

The NHS lists key symptoms as: depression; sleep problems; lethargy; overeating; irritability; plus feeling down and unsociable.

The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association says SAD affects people differently, but, adds that there is usually something that will help; it suggests it is important “…not to give up if the first remedy doesn’t work. Just keep trying.”

The NHS offers basic advice steps. The first is to keep active. Research shows a daily one-hour walk during the day could be as helpful as exposure to light for coping with the winter blues.

Its second tip is to go outdoors into natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on bright days; indoors, pale colours can be used to reflect outside light into rooms, but sitting near windows is advised whenever possible.

Keeping warm is also important. With bad symptoms, it is important to see a GP. However, cold adds to depression; staying warm can halve the winter blues. Hot drinks and food help, as do warm clothes and shoes. Ideally, rooms should be kept at between 18°C and 21°C (64° F and 70°F).

Unsurprisingly, healthy eating can be a mood booster that gives the body and mind more energy without putting on winter weight. A craving for carbohydrates — pasta and potatoes — must be balanced with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

Light therapy — sitting in front of a light box for up to two hours each day helps some people. Light boxes are around 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting, and, according to the NHS, cost around £100. Dawn simulators can be used to mimic sunrise and waking up gradually.

A good night’s sleep and regular sleep patterns help too. The advice is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, while trying to relax during the day with moderate exercise, yoga or meditation.

Active minds ward off SAD; taking up new hobbies offers something to anticipate and concentrate on. Socialising with friends and family — accepting invitations to social events — is shown to be positive for mental health and keeping the winter blues at bay.

Talking treatments, such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are a further option.

Another is joining a support group to share SAD experiences with people who empathise.

If symptoms become so bad that normal life is not possible, seeking medical help is vital.

Practical workplace advice

Many large companies also have advice to share with smaller companies, particularly around productivity issues that can be hit hard by even a few employees who, beyond their immediate control, suffer from SAD in short winter days with limited hours of sunlight.

The advice here is to remove morning stress by going out of doors early. This can be a positive environment for setting the right tone for successful days, and reviewing — or perhaps, where possible, removing — challenging tasks.

Another suggestion is to follow simple routines, such as organising tomorrow’s clothes today, or preparing lunch in advance. Forward-planning can help in putting the best foot forward.

Another tip is to decorate offices and workplaces with low-maintenance plants that distract from gloomy outdoor weather. Setting goals in the New Year and beyond can also help to lift horizons.

Being a social butterfly and moving from comfort zones can break the mould too, even when it is freezing outside.

Every little helps

Although largely considered to be a myth and commercial distraction from the real effects of mental illness, “Blue Monday” is said to be more-or-less the day in the year when morale and good feeling are probably at their lowest. However, firms can help their staff and their own productivity in a number of simple ways.

They include inserting a “wellbeing break” into the daily work programme and encouraging teams to invest their personal “me” time in fitness workouts, activities with children, or meditation.

Opening up is important too. According to Bupa’s Workplace Wellbeing Census, 71% of people say having an approachable manager in the past made them feel comfortable enough to raise their own specific wellbeing issues.

Staff also have different homeworking situations that may include caring for children or a vulnerable person. Speaking to employees individually about their responsibilities, needs and flexible workloads can help.

Working from home can be lonely; 50% of employees say colleagues have a positive impact on their wellbeing at work which makes staying connected important. This can be achieved by checking in with each other on daily work plans and non-work news … or team events such as virtual coffee.

Creating fun events, recognising good work, keeping happiness levels up through the year, and maintain good leadership and management habits can make a big difference too.


Winter with its festivities is generally a time of joy and fun. However, for many employees it is also a season of anguish, tiredness and poor motivation that can seriously lower the quality of their lives, as well as the productivity of places where they work.

Though the symptoms in some cases are very similar and not easy to diagnose without a trained medical opinion, burnout, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and generally low spirits, can be distinct mental, physical and emotional states where the best remedies differ.

What will you be trying over the Christmas period?

Contact us if you require further information.