Category Archives: Tips and Advice


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.

Takeaway

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.

 

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

Why have this talk? Every year many accidents resulting in injuries occur through slips, trips, and falls. Most of these slips, trips and falls that occur are easily preventable with a little consideration and care.

What will this talk cover? The causes and prevention of slips, trips, and falls.

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

What causes slips, trips and falls?

  • The most common reason for injuries from falls is poor housekeeping, ie mess. Items lying about will trip someone up if not put away in a safe place.
  • Where oils and grease are used, spills will create a slip hazard if not immediately cleaned up.
  • General debris from building works can quickly accumulate and form a tripping hazard.
  • Trailing cables are another frequent cause of tripping.
  • Mud left on equipment surfaces or ladder rungs will represent a slipping hazard for the next person.
  • Reduced levels of natural light, for example during winter afternoons, can easily increase the tripping hazards if adequate access lighting is not provided. Tools, equipment, and materials that are visible in full daylight will be harder to spot in reduced lighting.

How to prevent slips, trips and falls

  • Clear up waste materials as you create them. Lightweight waste should be bagged or bundled, and all sharp objects removed, eg nails from waste timber.
  • Do not leave tools, equipment or unused materials lying about on the floor.
  • If you are using substances which could spill, ensure that you have a means of effectively clearing up any spillage.
  • As far as possible, cables for work equipment should be secured above head height. If cables must be routed at floor level, try to avoid crossing pedestrian walkways and use fluorescent or warning tape to highlight potential trip hazards at floor level.
  • If the workplace is muddy, scrape off mud from footwear before using access equipment or walking anywhere that may be a danger to others.
  • Be aware of the increased risks of tripping as the level natural light fades; use additional lighting and ensure that all tools, equipment, and materials are stored in a safe location.

Questions for employees

  • What can you do in your job to reduce slip, trip, or fall hazards?
  • How can you manage the risk from trip hazards at floor level?
  • What is the correct procedure for clearing up a spilt liquid?
  • How can you improve workplace lighting as the sun sets?

Do you have any questions for me?

Contact us if you require further assistance.

 

Published · Updated

Winter’s coming: are you prepared?

safe-work-conditions-winter

Winter’s coming: are you prepared?

This autumn there have already been incidents of severe flooding, hurricanes and even snow. Although, it is tempting to hope that such extreme weather is just a one-off, our changing climate means that we are likely to experience more severe weather, not less.

The Climate Change Committee has warned that “future UK winter weather may be dominated more often by weather patterns associated with wetter, wilder and windier winter weather”. And although bitingly cold winters are not a key part of the predictions, variability is, meaning that businesses would be wise to properly prepare for winter regardless of how cold, or snowy, it might be. The cold, icy conditions experienced during the winter of 2018/19 — which led to temperatures plummeting to -14°C in the Cairngorms in Scotland and bringing some cities to a halt — were estimated to have cost the UK economy £1 million for every day of disruption.

Preparing for winter

To prepare for inclement weather, a winter plan should be put together with an associated risk assessment. This should be carried out well in advance, and revisited and revised throughout the cold period. The winter plan will be part of the suite of contingency plans already in place that outline what could happen in worst-case scenarios, and how these risks are mitigated and managed. For example, how would the business fare if power supplies went down?

Due to the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown, last year’s winter plan was likely to have been radically different to those preceding it. Some aspects may be still relevant; others may need adapting based on the current and anticipated measures for Winter 2021/22. As part of any planning process, include a review of how the plan fared last year, as well as the year before, so that new approaches can be adopted where processes were less than ideal.

Some areas that could be addressed as part of winter planning are outlined below.

Preventive maintenance

Bad weather and high winds can expose any building flaws, especially in areas such as roofs or windows. Before winter comes, carry out a condition survey to identify any potential problems, and prioritise them for repair.

Similarly, regularly inspect heating systems and any other plant required for emergencies, such as back-up generators. Proactive maintenance and regular inspections will help reduce the chance of failure when these bits of kit are most needed. Consider setting additional “winter” KPIs to help track and monitor those tasks that need to be given higher priority during this time.

Proper ventilation will also be crucial this winter to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Options such as opening windows may become less appealing as it turns colder, and so mechanical ventilation will be relied upon. Again, preventive maintenance will help ensure that all systems are functioning well.

Slips and trips

Snow and ice are two obvious winter problems that can be a hindrance to any business. Make sure that supplies of grit are fully stocked, and that weather warnings are regularly checked so that the grit is used when needed. Staff employed to spread grit need proper personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as a map of where to grit, and priority areas. Keep records of where and when gritting takes place and fully train staff. Also ensure that any gritting is carried out in a Covid secure manner, for example, by providing individual PPE.

Do not forget inside the building too — staff bringing snow and ice in on their shoes can create slippery surfaces, so consider adding extra mats at the front doors to help keep the building clean and to absorb any extra wetness.

Remember that slips and trips are not just isolated to times when snow falls. Darker mornings and evenings can cause more accidents, as can autumnal leaf fall. As part of maintenance checks, ensure external lighting is adequate and that entrances and pathways are kept clear of leaf litter and debris.

Staff working outdoors

As part of the maintenance team there might be people who are regularly working outdoors. Although minimum working temperatures do not apply for these workers, there is, however, still a duty of care to ensure that people are not working in unsafe conditions. This could mean that managers need to look at rotas to avoid staff working outside in the cold for long periods of time, as well as making sure there are adequate facilities for people to warm up and take a break. The availability of facilities is especially critical if breaks need to be staggered due to Covid-19, or if the usual facilities have changed. Additional PPE to account for the weather can also be appropriate — for example, having good waterproofs.

Managing sickness

Along with bad weather comes the dreaded winter flu. This year, seasonal flu may also coincide with another wave of Covid-19 infections meaning that managing sickness will be more important than ever. Health and Safety representative and managers can play an important, if not visible, role in reducing the impact of staff illness spreading. For example, by stocking up on soap and alcohol gels and working to promote “hands, face, space” messaging and other good behaviours to reduce the spread infections.

Winter doesn’t always mean catching a cold. For some, it can also bring about the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as a propensity for less exercise and a change in diet. The impact that Covid-19 has had on mental health is well documented, and the onset of winter can make any pre-existing condition worse. Keep this in mind; perhaps renew or re-launch any wellness campaigns or promote any mental health support that is offered by the business.

In short, plan ahead. Make sure that a winter plan is in place, any maintenance is carried out and that the business is ready should the worst happen. If bad weather does strike, then remember to review how it went afterwards and implement any changes that might be necessary.

Contact us for further information or advice.

 

Published · Updated

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips and Falls

Why have this talk? Every year many accidents resulting in injuries occur through slips, trips, and falls. Most of these slips, trips and falls that occur are easily preventable with a little consideration and care.

What will this talk cover? The causes and prevention of slips, trips, and falls.

What causes slips, trips and falls?

  • The most common reason for injuries from falls is poor housekeeping, ie mess. Items lying about will trip someone up if not put away in a safe place.
  • Where oils and grease are used, spills will create a slip hazard if not immediately cleaned up.
  • General debris from building works can quickly accumulate and form a tripping hazard.
  • Trailing cables are another frequent cause of tripping.
  • Mud left on equipment surfaces or ladder rungs will represent a slipping hazard for the next person.
  • Reduced levels of natural light, for example during winter afternoons, can easily increase the tripping hazards if adequate access lighting is not provided. Tools, equipment, and materials that are visible in full daylight will be harder to spot in reduced lighting.

How to prevent slips, trips and falls

  • Clear up waste materials as you create them. Lightweight waste should be bagged or bundled, and all sharp objects removed, eg nails from waste timber.
  • Do not leave tools, equipment or unused materials lying about on the floor.
  • If you are using substances which could spill, ensure that you have a means of effectively clearing up any spillage.
  • As far as possible, cables for work equipment should be secured above head height. If cables must be routed at floor level, try to avoid crossing pedestrian walkways and use fluorescent or warning tape to highlight potential trip hazards at floor level.
  • If the workplace is muddy, scrape off mud from footwear before using access equipment or walking anywhere that may be a danger to others.
  • Be aware of the increased risks of tripping as the level natural light fades; use additional lighting and ensure that all tools, equipment, and materials are stored in a safe location.

Questions for employees

  • What can you do in your job to reduce slip, trip, or fall hazards?
  • How can you manage the risk from trip hazards at floor level?
  • What is the correct procedure for clearing up a spilt liquid?
  • How can you improve workplace lighting as the sun sets?

Do you have any questions for me?

If you require further advice, please contact us.

 

What are the COVID rules for those who are double vaccinated?

covid-19

What are the COVID rules for those who are double-vaccinated?

Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate when coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus from Monday

The Government has confirmed that those who are fully vaccinated with the Covid jab will no longer need to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

This will go ahead from Monday, August 16, meaning anyone fully vaccinated will only need to quarantine if they test positive for Covid themselves. This also applies to those 18 and under, who will not need to legally self isolate from Monday if coming into close contact with someone with the virus.

In the confirmation of the change in rules, the Government said: “Getting two doses of a vaccine has tipped the odds in our favour and allowed us to safely reclaim our lost freedoms”.

What are the rules for those who are double-jabbed from Monday 16th August?

1. Quarantining with symptoms

Anyone who tests positive for the virus will still need to legally quarantine until their symptoms improve and after they have tested negative for Covid.

2. Taking PCR Tests

Everyone will still be advised to take PCR tests if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. This is to check they do not have the virus themselves, as the vaccination is not 100% effective.

This includes health care workers, if they test negative through a PCR test they can return to work and will still need to take lateral flow tests for 10 days.

3. Self-isolating after August 16

Anyone who was alerted to self-isolate before August 16 and their quarantine days ends after August 16 can leave isolation from Monday.

4. Second jab 14 days before August 16

The new rules only apply to those who have had their second vaccination within 14 days before August 16. Anyone who has had their second vaccine below 14 days before August 16 will still need to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

After 14 days after receiving the second vaccination, they can follow the new rules or not needing to self-isolate.

5. Advised to wear masks and be cautious

Everyone is still advised to wear masks in busy or enclosed areas, particularly to those who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive and those coming into close contact with someone who tested positive are encouraged to “limit contact with other people” as the Government explained.

6. NHS Track and Trace system

People will still be contacted by the NHS Track and Trace system if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive but will instead be asked to take a PCR test, rather than to isolate.

7. NHS Covid app

The NHS Covid app will be able to prove if people have been double vaccinated or if they are under 18 years. Anyone who has not had two doses or a full vaccination course will still have to self-isolate. The self-isolation rules have helped maintain and control the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking about this Health Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “Asking the close contacts of people with COVID-19 to self-isolate has played a critical role in helping us get this virus under control, and millions of people across the UK have made enormous sacrifices by doing this, every single one of these sacrifices has helped us protect the NHS and save lives.”

Take care. Keep safe!

Contact Walker Health and Safety Services Limited for further information.

(Correct on day of posting)