After a mild start to the winter, the cold is finally coming, and with it, a higher risk of slips and trips. Health and safety becomes even more of a concern for businesses during periods of bad weather and our advice to SMEs is to always plan ahead; companies should make sure they are ready and have a plan in place. Protecting the people who use your premises is paramount, as well as the business from possible legal action.
Winter weather health and safety tips
All businesses should regularly check they are not exposing others to potential slip, trip or fall risks; this can be undertaken by simple walk-through checks.
Ensure your surface water drains are running freely, so areas which can pond (or flood), and therefore freeze, do not become mini ice rinks. Likewise, deal with pot holes which can have the same effect. Prioritise busy paths if resources are tight.
Have a policy for snow clearance – especially if you have a large or multiple sites. Decide in advance how you will handle clearance and ensure you have the people, contractors, equipment and grit in place to meet potential demand. If you decide to work with a contractor, obtain references and make sure they have good weather prediction services in place. A good gritting contractor will organise all of this for you and ensure you are taking the right precautions on your site.
Businesses who ask staff to participate in gritting should be sure safe systems are in place to undertake this. Gritting and snow clearance can be physically demanding work.
Ensure you clearly communicate with site users where these safe routes are. This could be via signage, notices (e.g. a marked site plan), or by email depending on your organisation. It may be relevant to close parts of your site which cannot be made safe (for example exposed ramps on car parks). Again, work with your site users, tenants or residents so they are clear on what they can expect.
If you grit in the early morning, it is possible for slush to turn to ice as the sun goes down late afternoon, so you may need to look at whether further gritting will be necessary.
If your organisation needs to close, think about how you might communicate this information to your team so everyone knows as soon as possible. If roads or routes are clearly treacherous, workers should not be expected to use their vehicles – again organisations need to consider a) how they communicate this, and b) how they can minimise the potential impact it will have.
Finally, many businesses worry that if they clear snow/ice and someone slips they are more likely to be subject to claims than if they did nothing at all. Provided you have a policy in place, that you plan in advance and check the robustness of your arrangements once in place, this will not be the case. The clearance work which you undertake, and the plans you make now, may mean your business or school can operate when your competitors have had to close.
The MET Office’s Snow Code should provide further assurances: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/get-ready-for-winter/out-and-about/the-snow-code
So, is your business ready for the white stuff?
By Louise Hosking MCIEH CMIOSH IMaPS AIEMA SIIRSM, Chartered Safety & Health Practitioner, Director at Hosking Associates Ltd