Snow Alert!

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have previously tried to dispel a common myth regarding snowfall – sadly some businesses still believe it is better to leave snow untouched for fear of being sued... this is not the case!  The HSE are quite clear that you CAN clear frost, snow and ice from pavements yourself – in fact, if you are in charge of a business premise, then you have a duty to make it as safe as is reasonably practical for users of the site – the important factor is to clear slip hazards thoroughly and at the right times.

In the winter months, forward planning is essential due to the increased likelihood of slips on ice, frost or snow; assess risk, then put a system to manage those risks that includes monitoring the temperature and taking early action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast.  Where possible, pre-treat surfaces the night before to make it easier for night shift workers, early arrivals etc. to move about safely.  It’s easier to move fresh, loose snow before it becomes compacted and walked on, making it important to take action sooner rather than later.

On many sites it may not be practically possible to clear all snow / ice away – where this is the case, target the areas most likely to be affected by cold weather conditions (typically building entrances, car parks and the pathways that serve them, etc.) then manage them accordingly.  Use grit (rock salt or similar should be on your shopping list every autumn) to manage slip risks and, where practical, divert people away from untreated areas or higher risk areas such as steps, short-cuts or where the ground may be uneven, sloping, etc.

DO NOT use warm or hot water to clear areas!  This will soon lose its heat and you risk it freezing and forming black ice - use salt and re-treat as and when necessary ... and do not use grit from roadside bins, as this is only for use on the highway.  Alongside de-icing and snow clearing activities, putting sand down can provide extra grip if salt supplies run low.

In addition to outside risks, businesses often need to consider lobbies and other building entrances where loose snow is likely to blow in or be carried in by pedestrians and then melt, creating internal slip risks – matting, designed to double up as a means of removing snow from footwear and as an anti-slip measure, should be deployed where risks are identified.  It is advisable to have spare mats for areas of very high footfall and to monitor all high risk areas - use mops or other drying devices (alongside ‘Wet Floor’ signs) if necessary.

Whilst it may be too late for this year’s bad weather, some businesses can reduce risk further by forward planning – creative landscaping solutions (such as covered or screened walkways) designed to prevent snow from settling on pathways can reduce the amount of time / effort spent in resolving issues in future years.

Key points – monitor weather forecasts, plan ahead, act promptly and don’t just ignore it until it’s gone away!

If you have a query regarding this alert, or any other health & safety issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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