As we dive into the depths of January, and the mercury dips ever lower, it is vital for care workers to consider their safety and wellbeing.
Not only are frontline key workers dealing with all the challenges of providing outstanding care throughout a global pandemic – but are also faced with sub-zero temperatures, snow, ice and freezing fog!
Here we’ll run through our advice to take good care of yourself throughout your shifts, from safe travel to proper winter nutrition. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so it’s important to put your health at the top of your priorities, to make sure you can keep providing your essential services to your residents and patients when they need you most.
Care Workers Winter Dress Tips
You don’t need us to explain that care shifts can be diverse and varied.
There is every possibility that you work in several different care homes or facilities. Outreach social care staff also need to visit people in their own homes, or at community hubs, and in some cases, it’s quite challenging to predict where you will be required!
The best way to deal with this is to dress appropriately; if you prepare for the worst and need to take off a few layers, it means that you’re fixed to handle even the coldest of days.
- Keep spare clothes with you, at your desk, in your bag, or the car so you’ve got layers on hand if you need them. Think gloves, a hat, scarf and spare socks (damp, cold feet can cause a tremendous amount of discomfort!).
- Layer up, with lots of fabrics to trap warm air close to your body. Yes, you might have to shed a jumper here or there during the day, but it’s best to have a back up if you find yourself needing to head out at short notice.
- Wear sensible shoes. If you live for a pair of glamorous heels, you can still bring them with you! Nevertheless, if you’re de-icing a car, waiting for a colleague or need to walk outdoors in potentially icy conditions, having a decent grip will keep your feet firmly beneath you.
Particularly at this time of year, the weather can change its mind at a moment’s notice.
We’ve all gone off to work in the gloriously crisp winter sunshine, only to head home in a blizzard, so it’s best not to rely on the weather report alone, and to have a contingency plan.
Think Warm Nutrition for Cold Work Days
The next recommendation we’d make is to consider your lunch.
We’ve all worked a shift where there isn’t time for a proper sit-down, or when we need to grab a snack quickly. But, if you’re on your feet all day and encountering cold temperatures, you do need to pay attention to your body and refuel when required.
Having something warm, even if it’s a thermos of coffee or an insulated soup container, means that you can restore your core temperature if you’ve needed to travel on a snowy day, and can do wonders for your energy and morale as well as your health. Don’t leave it to chance. If a snowstorm does hit, there is no telling what the roads might look like, or how long a queue you might end up in, so having something warming with you saves being caught out in potentially risky situations.
Delays to public transport are very common in snow and ice, and if you do end up waiting for hours to get to your destination if you’ve got food with you, you’re going to find the experience a lot more comfortable!
Charge Your Mobile and Bring a Power Bank
Next up, let’s think about the absolute worst-case scenario! You’re heading home, but there is a mass exodus with everyone trying to get back before the roads ice over.
There is a massive queue for the train, the buses are running nightmarishly slow on freshly gritted roads, or public transport services are suspended without notice due to dangerous travel conditions. In any of these situations, or if you find yourself locked out or stranded in icy weather, you need your mobile to call for help, let your shift manager know that you’re running late, or give a home care patient a ring, so they’re assured that you are on your way.
You’ve got a few options here:
- Charge your mobile before you head out for the start of a shift.
- Bring a charger with you (with a plug adapter if you use a USB charger, as not all staff rooms will have the facilities to charge on a USB adapter!).
- Invest in a power bank as a back up if you’re out and about, and your battery starts to run down.
Always check your battery before you head out the door, and spend a few minutes waiting to have a decent charge before starting your journey.
Bring Your Own Supplies
Now, it might sound like we’re preparing for a six-foot snowstorm the likes of the UK rarely sees, but the reality is that cold weather can be harsh, and sudden.
We’re not suggesting you bring a tent, foil blanket and snowshoes with you to work every day, but it is well worth thinking about what you sling in your bag so that you’re not putting your health at risk if you do have a busy day of appointments, or know that you’ll be leaving work in cold, dark conditions.
If you usually bring a small bag with you, we’d suggest upgrading that to a backpack. They are easier to carry, don’t put a strain on your shoulders, and have more capacity to bring extra layers, a bottle of water, and perhaps some reading material if you do end up with a long wait ahead.
There are some small, light things you can stash away that will be invaluable in an emergency!
- A small torch is an excellent idea if your road is iced over and you need to walk in the dark.
- Hand warmers are a great way of keeping your fingers or toes warm.
- Some energy gels or dextrose tablets will help give you a boost if public transport isn’t running, or you can’t get a cab from the station and find yourself with a long slog home.
- Spare cash is a good plan should the train stop running – most taxis these days have snow tyres, and contactless payment machines and are pretty reliable. Still, if you’ve got a bit of cash as a backup plan, you won’t find yourself stranded.
- Socks are a must-have, and when the buses are packed, or running very late, it’s essential to keep your feet warm, particularly if you do need to walk.
We hope these suggestions are useful – and please remember that even if a light dusting of snow is forecast, if you end up needing to make your own way home, have a busy day of client appointments lined up, or are likely to be spending a good chunk of your shift outdoors, being prepared is essential!
Transport conditions can change without warning if roads haven’t been gritted, so making a few provisions will make a big difference in your safety, wellbeing, and comfort.
If you’re at all concerned with the weather, lack of transport options, or managing to negotiate your shift in snow and ice, always get in touch with your immediate manager to ensure you’ve got everything you need.
Above all, stay safe out there!