News & Views

Winter storms cloud the H&S horizon

BY Steven McCallum
Health & Safety
BG Orange

It seems that all we’ve talked about recently is the weather. Abigail and Barney have paid us a visit and the next of the Met Office’s named storms, Clodagh, Desmond and Eva, will no doubt stop by in the coming weeks and months.

Winter is just around the corner and with temperatures set to dip this weekend the sight of gritting trucks, road closures, delays & traffic jams will be commonplace once again.  

Winter generally sees an increase in accidents in and around workplaces. It is important that organisations understand how inclement weather can affect their operations and make reasonable adjustments to reduce the risk. The most common workplace injuries are the result of slips, trips and falls accounting for around 40% of accidents every year.

Due to the severity of winter weather, efforts at clearing snow and ice can be soon overwhelmed and anyone in charge of a building with external areas will struggle to keep surfaces ice-free. There is a need to prove all that was reasonably practicable (i.e. given the cost and resources required), was done and maintained.

In the first instance the person in charge of the premises needs to establish their areas of responsibility. Sometimes car parks, front entrances and communal areas are the responsibility of local authorities or facility management companies. It is worth checking out lease agreements to understand what areas you are required to maintain.

If responsibility lies with you then you make adjustments to ensure the safety of people affected by your operations. You may need to grit car parks and external walkways to reduce the likelihood of slips.  If it is not your responsibility, then at the very least you should inform the person who is responsible of the hazard. 

Why not consider our suggested procedure below as a help?

Suggested Compliance Procedures
Focus efforts for snow removal and gritting icy areas on the places where people are most likely to slip - entrance paths, main walkways, steps and areas of car parks. Where practical, cordon off areas which are untreated. Snow clearing and gritting everywhere isn't possible.

Monitor the weather forecast and when frost or snow is predicted the night before grit the areas as per the plan and cordon off other non-treated areas.

Manpower (including the use of third party contractors) must be considered to ensure the above treatment is achieved.

Warning signs
Place notices on entrance and exits doors (large print). If this is not possible, due to the number of entrances and exits ensure that appropriate clear signs are put up in communal areas e.g. passenger lifts or entrance lobby:-

"Notice to Staff and Customers”
Please take extra care and be vigilant during the freezing weather conditions.

[insert company name] makes every effort to ensure that external surfaces are free from slipping hazards under normal weather conditions. This is not possible during the very cold temperatures we are experiencing at present.

Please follow the gritted routes and stay clear of the cordoned off areas.

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