Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees, and during the winter months they must minimise the risks from snow and ice. As with any health and safety assessment and policy, your business needs to plan for adverse weather conditions. Potential hazards need to be identified, and measures need to be taken to reduce those risks.
Slips, trips and falls increase during Winter for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths.
There are, however, effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slip or trip in your workplace.
As winter sets in, employers need to be aware that workers who are exposed to cold, wet or icy conditions may be at risk of sustaining injuries or becoming ill. But with the right preparation and precautions in place risks can be minimised.
Slips, trips and falls happen year-round, but during colder months, ice and snow create a more hazardous environment that increases the risk of injury at work. Employers have a duty to ensure that the surface of every traffic route on their premises, whether that be roads or pavements, is suitable for the purpose for which it is used and does not expose their employees to the risk of slipping.
Employers need to ensure that an active effort is made to prevent ice build-up on traffic routes and ensure that car parks and other work areas are also cleared. In addition to ice and snow, other obstacles that could compromise the safety of workers include wet leaves, fallen branches, and excessive amounts of rainwater.
Our top tips to help avoid slips, trips and falls at work:
Identify the areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice - building entrances, car parks, walkways, break areas - and put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming e.g. gritting.
Ensure all staff members are trained on your winter safety policy
Keep all walkways, stairways and other work areas clear from water and ice and remove hazards immediately
Ensure all walkways and passageways are clearly marked and well lit
Clearly mark hazardous areas. Use temporary signs, cones, barricades or chain stands to warn passing workers.
Monitor the temperature and take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast.
In addition to the employer having a duty of care to provide a safe work environment for their employees, individuals are also considered to be responsible for their own safety and to take reasonable care when travelling into areas where they should reasonably suspect icy or slippery surfaces to be present. This includes wearing appropriate footwear, taking extra care when walking, and avoiding carrying heavy loads that may compromise balance.
Ice and Snow
You must identify the hazards associated with snow and ice as part of your site risk assessment. Then you need to take steps to ensure they are minimised.
The most common method used to melt existing snow and ice and prevent new ice from forming on surfaces is gritting as it is relatively cheap, quick and easy to carry out.
Gritting should be carried out when frost, ice or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the floor temperatures are at, or below freezing. The best times are early in the evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive.
In order to clear ice from pathways, car parks, and entry points easily and effectively, spreading materials should be stored close by in designated containers. Materials such as salt, granules, or sand often become unusable if stored incorrectly, so proper storage is particularly important.
Our Top Product for Winter Grit Containers: Install grit containers around your premises to ensure fast and easy placement of scattering materials on icy surfaces such as car parks and walkways!
Other Winter Risks
Fallen leaves that are wet or have started to decay can create risks of people falling or slipping in two ways:
The surface is slippery and can be as hazardous as ice.
They can hide any danger that may be on the path, such as an uneven surface or an obstruction.
It is recommended that a procedure is put in place to remove leaves from car parks and walkways at regular intervals.
Excessive rain can play havoc with surfaces. The following should be considered when dealing with rainwater:
To help reduce the dangers of slips when people walk in the water and then tread it into the building, consider installing canopies over the entrances to your buildings.
If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip.
Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt, which are likely to become slippery when wet.
Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths and ensure the material used will be slip-resistant when wet.
It’s important to consider the precautions you can take in external areas in advance of deteriorating weather. We recommend erecting signs indicating a reduction in speed in car parks before autumn and winter begin. You could also introduce speed bumps to parking areas in order to force vehicles to slow down to safer speeds.
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