During periods of bad weather there is a higher incidence of slips and trips. Whilst it is always better to plan ahead for the winter there will be those caught out by the cold weather. We are now well into winter but have had mostly mild weather from October to December. Ice and snow have hit some regions already this winter and are fast approaching others. It is paramount, if not already prepared, that organisations have a winter plan in place for their premises, customers and employees. Businesses need to protect themselves from risks such as personal injury claims which are becoming increasingly common in our ‘blame culture’ society.
Louise Hosking, risk management specialist, offers her winter weather health & safety tips to help businesses put in place strategies to keep employees and customers safe.
Winter weather health & safety tips
- All businesses should regularly check they’re not exposing others to potential slip, trip or fall risks; this can be undertaken by simple walk-through checks.
- Ensure 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.
- Ensure you clearly communicate with site users where 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 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.
- Take responsibility – if you’re going to outsource your gritting and snow clearing to contractors, make sure you choose the right one. Clearly scope the work they do and whether they have sufficient local resources and capabilities to deliver the service in all weather conditions. Don’t be pushed into a ‘one size fits all’ contract – examine the needs of your site and work closely with the contractor, to ensure they are met. This should be done well ahead of winter, but if you have not already put a winter maintenance plan in place, now is the time to research suitable and quality winter gritting contractors for your business in case you are caught out.
- Keep an eye on temperatures and the forecast – it is your responsibility to be aware of the forecast and to react accordingly.
- Don’t be caught out – no two winters are ever the same. Planning ahead and having the necessary resources and training means your company won’t be left out in the cold when hit by severe winter weather.
Finally, many businesses worry 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, 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.
An article by the HSE should also provide further assurances