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Cold at work? Staying safe this winter

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When the temperature falls, the risks rise. Hospitals are warning of worrying levels of winter viruses, and some sectors are stretched from under-staffing caused by sickness levels.

Meanwhile, outdoor workers brace the icy cold and snowfall with risks of slips and being stranded. We all have the right to protection from the risks that come with cold climes. Keeping warm at work isn't just about feeling cosy – it's about staying safe and healthy.

The law says bosses must give us a safe place to work, and that includes making sure it's not too cold. There is guidance that says indoor workplaces need to be at least 16 degrees Celsius – the minimum working temperature. It’s because working in cold places can make work harder, and put our health at risk. 

Prolonged exposure to cold weather can cause hypothermia, frostbite, breathing issues, and an impaired immune system, making you less capable of fighting off viruses. This can be a bigger risk for workers with existing health conditions, pregnant women, or older workers. Employers need to do their bit by making sure workspaces have good heating and insulation to keep us warm and healthy. 

If your job means being outside or in places that are always cold, bosses must give you the right clothes and gear to stay warm. They should also let you take breaks in warm spots. 

Employers also need to check the risks of working in the cold and have plans to keep these risks low. They should regularly check on workers and deal with any problems quickly. 

How Union Reps Help 

Union reps have a role to play here. We are there to make sure bosses follow the rules and keep us safe, and health and safety reps have the right to carry out inspections and be involved in risk assessments. 

They work with bosses to check if workplaces are warm enough and meet the legal rules. Union reps also teach us about our rights and why it's important to have a safe and warm workplace. 

Union reps can talk to the boss and make agreements that say what needs to be done to keep us safe. They can talk about things like heating, gear to stay warm, and making sure people who work in the cold have what they need to be safe. 

In short, having a warm workplace and being safe from the cold isn't just about feeling comfy – it's the law and it's about looking after us. Employers have to follow these rules to keep us safe, and union reps help to make sure they do. So, staying warm at work isn't just a nice idea; it's something we all have the right to expect. 

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