Health and Safety News

Occupational health and safety news and guidance

How to Stay Safe in Cold Weather

When it comes to preparing for changing weather, the focus is often on extreme conditions. However, research has found that prolonged exposure to moderately cold temperatures actually kills more people than extreme heat or freezing spells. In fact, data collected in 384 locations shows that the majority of these deaths occurred on moderately hot and cold days, with moderately cold temperatures causing the most fatalities.

Protecting Yourself and Others

To protect yourself and your loved ones from the cold, it's important to consider how cold weather may affect different groups, particularly older individuals, young children, and those with pre-existing health conditions. If you or someone you know is eligible for a flu vaccination, it's crucial to get it as soon as possible. Indoors, ensure you have plenty of warm food and drinks and try to maintain indoor temperatures of at least 18 degrees Celsius. This is especially important if you have to sit still for long periods or if you have a long-term illness or are over the age of 65.

Keeping an eye on weather forecasts is also essential. You can use the news, weather apps, or visit the MET Office website to stay informed about upcoming weather changes. The Red Cross advises having an emergency kit with a range of essentials. Below are some examples of what you can include in your emergency kits.

Home Emergency Kit

  • List of emergency contact numbers (paper copy)
  • Essential medication
  • First aid kit
  • Three-day supply of bottled water and non-perishable food
  • Copies of important documents (insurance policies, birth certificates) in a waterproof bag
  • Battery-operated radio and spare batteries or a wind-up radio
  • Battery-operated torch and spare batteries or a wind-up torch
  • Pencil, paper, pen knife, and whistle
  • Spare keys to your home and car
  • Spare glasses or contact lenses
  • Baby and pet supplies (if needed)

Emergency Car Kit

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Snow shovel
  • Map for diversions
  • Blanket and warm clothes
  • First aid kit
  • Battery-operated radio and spare batteries or a wind-up radio
  • Jump leads

During cold winter weather, many of us still need to drive. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advises adapting your driving style to stay safe. Conditions can vary greatly during a single journey, so it's important to be prepared for different weather, road, and traffic conditions. RoSPA provides detailed guidance on how to prepare your vehicle, journey, and yourself for driving in snow, ice, rain, fog, strong winds, and low sunshine.

Gas Appliances and Heating Systems

As the cold weather sets in, households rely on gas boilers and gas fires to stay warm. However, increased usage can put pressure on gas appliances and potentially lead to breakdowns when they're needed most. To prevent this, it's vital to have gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year. This reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and it's also recommended to have a battery-operated detector.

The Gas Safe Register has reported that over five and a half million people in the UK are not getting their gas appliances safety checked annually, putting their health and finances at risk. This results in 186 gas emergency callouts every day. If you're one of these individuals, find a Gas Safe registered engineer to test your appliances now.

If you have a solid fuel burning system, such as wood burners or an open coal fire, don't forget to have your chimney swept at least once a year. Approved sweeps can be found on the HETAS website.


Staying safe in cold weather requires preparation and awareness. By following the tips mentioned above, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home during the winter months. Remember to also reach out and assist friends, family, and neighbours who may need help when the weather turns cold. Stay informed, stay prepared, and stay safe!

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