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  • Aidan Walmsley
  • 12 January 2017
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Snow an Ice: How businesses should think about managing the risk

Snow and ice can disrupt your business in many ways. Nearly half of us feel compelled to get to work regardless and ‘maintain business as usual’, some have the privilege to work from home and for other unfortunately some are not able to work at all.

Here are some tips on how to manage the risk of slips and falls:

  • Check local weather reports regularly and give early warnings of any problems to your employees using a manager managers who can make decisions.
  • Consider and communicate any changes to working hours to accommodate employees that may be affected by school closures and/or travel disruption.
  • Encourage employees to plan alternative routes to work in the event that their usual route is disrupted. Check Council webpages that give details of gritted routes; good rule of thumb is to use travel on scheduled bus routes as these roads are often given priority for clearing and gritting. 
  • Consider the use of temporary signs to denote safe routes.
  • Always keep a small supply of salt (grit) for immediate use, to spread on essential icy paths and steps.
  • Remind employees to wear appropriate footwear when coming to work in severe weather conditions

Let’s look at what the law says. The main pieces of legislation are The Occupiers Liability Act that can make us liable for people who get hurt whilst on our premises and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (1974) states we must provide a safe place of work with safe access and egress. Both pieces of legislation require us to show we have done enough ‘so far as is reasonably practical’; to this end we have deal with the clearing snow and salting ice for the necessary paths and roads, it is not asking us to make safe all areas. Which routes are necessary is down to good judgement and priorities and may mean providing dedicated routes then letting people known which are to be used and not used. The law doesn’t really tell us how to comply but there are various effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slips trips and falls.

Here are some practical tips to reduce the risk:

  • Regardless of the size of your site, always ensure that regularly used walkways are promptly tackled
  • Have a pre-prepare plan and identify key priority routes, specific work areas and crossing points on roadways. Other areas could be restricted until they can be cleared later or prohibited from use until the weather improves; warning signs and barriers can be employed.  Most of all let your staff and visitors know.
  • You are not required to clear the public highway, however you may consider the salting entrances area immediately onto a public path or drop kerb if you feel it is necessary.
  • Organise a small working party to come in early ensuring the have warm jackets, appropriate boots, gloves and hats to stay warm and dry.
  • Provide them with the right tools (shovel, stiff brush, grit/salt, buckets) and allow sufficient time to do the job properly.
  • Checks the effectiveness of the arrangements. E.g. check the paths are clear twice a day
  • Lighting - Is there is enough lighting around your workplace for you and your workers to be able to see and avoid hazards that might be on the ground?

Gritting:

  • The most common method used to de-ice floors is gritting as it is relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’.
  • Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.
  • 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 evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive.
  • Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.
  • If you grit when it is raining heavily the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow.
  • Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit.
  • Be aware that ‘dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface.