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Preparing for Winter

Preparing for winter
Let's avoid slipping and falling!

Winter is here and Employers and controllers of property need to look at and assess the foreseeable hazards and resultant risks that are on our very own door step.

You will  need to prepare for heavy frost, snow & ice.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. Do we need to treat paths and access/egress routes to the building?
A. Yes, when adverse weather conditions are forecast or in existence.

Q. Are our employees legally required to report any slip and fall hazards?
A. Yes, they too have a “duty of care” to you the employer.

Q. Do we specifically have to illuminate external walk ways/exits?
A. Yes, normally external areas will require a lighting level around 100 lux.

Q. Do our employees, visitors and contractors have to cooperate with and adhere to our safe system of work?
A. Yes, it is a legal requirement for all to fully cooperate with the employer.

Q. Should an employer allow employees who travel on business a greater level of flexibility in relation to work schedules during adverse weather conditions?
A. Yes, empower your employees to make their own decisions and encourage good communication and safe practice.

It is reported that 11,000 persons were injured in the last year through slips and falls in the workplace. There is undoubtedly an increase in the number of accidents during the Winter months; these can be attributed to a few common place hazards. Surfaces can become wet and slippery, not only from rain but from snow, ice. Frost and fallen leaves. Our routine walkways, routes and paths inside and outside of our workplace will need to be lit appropriately to compensate for the darker working hours. Both lighting and fallen leaves may also cover and hide steps, changes in floor levels, so if in doubt please do display warning signage.

All of these hazards are more than reasonably foreseeable and so in accordance with the Management regulations it is paramount that employers make plans and take appropriate steps to prevent any accidents from occurring.

Lighting

Maintaining adequate lighting levels both inside and outside of a building will be vital to during the darker seasons. Testing and cleaning external light covers and bulbs as well as keeping adequate lighting levels inside of the building to help with the contrasting light levels.

Slippery when wet “Rain”

It is fairly unlikely that anyone would slip on a clean dry floor, therefore providing the means to deal with wet floors will be paramount during this time. Analysing the way in which or how often floors require cleaning may need to be considered. Laying non slip floor mats at entrance ways may help to reduce the amount of residual water trodden through the accommodation. It may also be worth investing in more permanent solutions and laying non slip surfaces in advance of the bad weather.
Having plastic covers for putting wet umbrellas into and or strategically placed umbrella stands around the environment may help in reducing walkways from being covered by water drips. It is also worth remembering that employees may want to dry their umbrellas out. These could also become obstructions as often the only room will be walkways, fire routes and exits, which must not be used for this purpose.

Remember a wet floor sign is not a barrier and therefore just to put a warning out about the possibility of slippery floor is not far enough. The sign itself could also become a hazard if it is just left out at all times as a just in case measure. It may also become an item that is easily ignored if employees become complacent about seeing it in place.

Working along side the cleaners and taking an active approach to planned preventative maintenance will always be the key to keeping on top of these types of hazards.

Snow and Ice

Gritting in advance of severe weather such as bad frost or snow will be vital to keeping external paths clear. Keep an eye on long term weather forecasts will help to predict when action should be taken. Gritting should be carried out in advance. Snow will need to be cleared so that it doesn’t become impacted and hide levels of ice below more fresh levels of snow. A mix of grit and salt is usually found to be the most effective covering but it does need time to settle and react to the surface to ensure it helps maintain a clear path. It is also worth remembering that grit can be washed away if it used during heavy rain.

Barrier off or block any routes or short cuts that employees make take across grass or muddy paths. This will help eliminate unnecessary excess wetness or dirt being trodden into and on to floors within the workplace.

Employee co operation

Employees can help reduce the amount of accidents by routinely inspecting and reporting on any hazards they may spot around the workplace. Providing employees with information and guidance on what is expected of them during the period will also help ease the transition during this period.

Outside building maintenance

It is worth investing in regular planned maintenance around the workplace location to include clearing paths, walkways and car parks. Removing and or clearing drains, drain covers and guttering, ensuring that surface water can drain off and away without pooling. Decaying vegetation and leaves should be pruned, clipped and sweep up on a regular basis.

Driving

It is also worth considering employees that travel and drive on business. Preparing in advance for changeable weather could really help and save someone in an impossible situation. Organising grab style bags filled with emergency items such as blankets, chocolate, thermos flasks, torch, mobile phone charger, shovel and high visibility jackets may help during a break down or stopped traffic. Reminding staff to regularly maintain the vehicles, checking on the water and oil and anti freeze levels, tyre condition and windscreen wipes will also help to ensure that both staff and the vehicles are prepared for anything that might come their way. It will also be worth in creating an emergency plan in which employees are able to make informed decisions about their travel arrangements should the weather take a serious turn. Allowing employees to plan and book appointments that are sympathetic to the fact that the evenings draw in much earlier or book an hotel and stay over night rather than attempting to travel if they feel it necessary.

Whether you are driving or travelling by other means, ensure your employer and next of kin is aware of your estimated time of arrival and return time, so as to ensure a safe system.

Applicable legislation:

The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992.