December 9, 2015

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Quiz – Taking Care in the Winter Weather

Winter Quiz Cover

Working in cold environments can give rise to a number of risks that need specific controls. And winter motoring requires special care and a little preparation if you are to avoid a breakdown or accident. The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Employers should have a winter driving policy in place for staff who drive for work purposes.

Employers must be flexible during harsh weather conditions and should not force staff to “risk life and limb” getting to work. However, business does not have to stop entirely. With good business continuity and safety policies in place, together with a good communication system businesses can continue to operate.

This quiz is based on information that can be found in the Barbour suite of resources under the topic ‘weather’.

By answering the questions below, practitioners can award themselves CPD credits. One, two or three credits can be awarded, depending on what has been learnt – exactly how many you award yourself is up to you, once you have reflected and taken part in the quiz

Please note:  There may be more than one correct answer to a question, and further reading may be required to correctly answer the questions.

1. Working temperatures

It is important to consider the inside temperature and comfort for staff. Workplaces should not drop below:


Answer: C

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 suggest a minimum temperature in workrooms to be at least 16 degrees Celsius if you are working at a computer all day or 13 degrees Celsius if much of the work indoors involves severe physical effort. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) suggests a range from 20ºC to 24ºC for offices involving sedentary tasks.

The above regulations state that: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

There is no definition of what is ‘reasonable’, and the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, eg a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace as: 'An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.'

2. Cold environments: health effects

Hypothermia results from whole-body cooling, when the internal body temperature drops to:

Answer: C

At this temperature or lower, brain and muscle functions are impaired, leading to erratic behaviour and clumsy movements. Shivering is induced, and the pulse and breathing rate slows down.

Other cold-related health effects include: Raynaud’s phenomenon (blanching of the fingers); and trench foot, where the extremities are exposed over a prolonged period to wet and cold (not freezing) conditions.  Although workers generally need a relatively long exposure to the cold before becoming affected, it may be that in an accident exposure is intense and rapid, for example through falling into a very cold watercourse. Colleagues must learn to check each other in extreme circumstances, as the victim may be mentally unaware of illness onset.

3. Thermal discomfort

All clothing has an insulation value known as what?

Answer: A [1 Clo = 0.155 m2K/W]

Adjusting the Clo level can bring workers back inside the reasonably comfortable temperature zone. In effect, the clothing produces a micro-climate next to the body and is an important factor in thermal comfort.

Careful choice of protective clothing is important as it may create problems (eg it may insulate from radiant heat, but may inhibit evaporation of sweat and the consequent cooling effect). Complex calculations may be required to properly manage all the variables involved, and managers may need to seek professional occupational health advice where a significant risk merits it.

4. Controlling risk

The only variables that can easily be controlled in cold environments are the Clo factor through the use of layered clothing (including underwear) for cold, wet, or windy conditions.

True or false?

Answer: True

The work should be as dry as possible and drainage of work areas (eg construction sites), is needed to keep feet and hands dry and warm. Good boots and gloves are essential.

A reasonable control is that staff should be allowed frequent short breaks in a dry, warm shelter. The job could be redesigned to allow the work to be carried out at warmer times. Although a reasonable metabolic rate is required to stay warm, workers must not become fatigued, as this means energy is no longer available for the body to warm itself. This is a difficult balance to maintain. The diet must include high calorie foods, but alcohol and caffeine should be avoided.

5. Other controls

Where an environment is considered to be too cold and the simple option of increased heating and proper warm clothing has already been addressed, then other options would include which of the following:

Answer: All of the above

In terms of local heating, directional infra-red radiant heaters have the advantage of warming the worker without increasing the air temperature.

6. Emergencies

In the event of emergencies, there must be a planned emergency response to remove the victim to a warm, dry area, while maintaining supervision of their mental and physical condition. In such situations, which of the following is not an immediate action?

Answer: D

D is not correct because rapid warming may stop the heart.

Responders in such situations should also maintain consciousness of the victim, by getting them to move occasionally and respond to simple questioning. Workers need training to understand the signs and symptoms of cold-induced injuries or illness because early detection can prevent serious injury.

7. Driving in snow and ice

When driving safely on ice, it is advised to decrease speed and leave plenty of room to stop the vehicle. In terms of stopping distance, how much space should you leave between you and the vehicle in front:

Answer: B

Advice for driving safely on ice also includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake

  • turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists

  • keep your lights and windscreen clean

  • using low gears to help you keep traction, especially on hills. Higher gears can be used for better overall control

  • do not use cruise control on icy roads

  • be especially careful on bridges and infrequently travelled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

8. Winter preparation

Preparing your car for winter should include checking which of the following:

Answer: All of the above

Other factors to consider when preparing a vehicle for winter would include:

  • changing and adjusting the spark plug

  • checking air, fuel and emission filter

  • inspecting the distributor

  • servicing the vehicle

  • keeping lights clean and checking bulbs regularly

  • making sure wiper blades aren’t worn so you can keep your windscreen as clean as possible for the extra spray, ice and rain.

Also, ensure windows and mirrors are kept clean – dirty windows and mirrors can make it hard to see as the low winter sun hits. Ensure windows are clear and de-misted before setting off! Finally, take a map to help in any unplanned diversions if you do not have satellite navigation.

9. Tyres

When driving in snow and/or ice, ensure that tyres are inflated to the manufacturers’ recommended pressure. What should the tread depth be?

Answer – B

Tyres should have at least 3mm of tread depth to enable a better grip on the road.

10. Becoming stranded

If you become stranded in snow and/or icy conditions, which of the following is advised:

Answer – B & C           

A is incorrect because you should not leave the vehicle, unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and you are certain you will improve your situation by doing so.

Advice for when stranded also includes:

  • if you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not obstructed or blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of fuel in the tank; never run the engine if the exhaust cannot escape due to surrounding snow

  • use woollen items and blankets to keep warm, to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia

  • eat and drink food carried in vehicle.

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Stuart WebsterNik VukelicRob ElliottMick Recent comment authors
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A refreshing change from the usual ‘free legislation update’ route for SHP to collect our contact details on behalf of Barbour – and with the added bonus of some well deserved CPD points too! Quite how anyone could assign themselves 3 CPD points for this little quiz I don’t really know, but there you are….

Rob Elliott
Rob Elliott

Excellent idea, informative as well!

Nik Vukelic
Nik Vukelic

Hi Roz
The CPD articles have changed a bit, I can’t seem to find them on the Barbour website.
The headings don’t appear to be there, and should the answers to the quiz be there too?

Let us know soon, cheers.

Stuart Webster
Stuart Webster

Topical quiz for the time of year