Guidance to employers during bad weather

With the recent weather conditions we have received several queries regarding providing safe access and egress to workplace premises. Hopefully the following guidance will enable you to identify slip, trip and fall hazards, assess risk and keep your premises safe and hazard free during the coming winter weeks.

The following guidance has been issued by HSE.
As an employer and business you have a duty of care to employees and all those who may be affected by your business or activities, this includes visitors, contractors and members of the public accessing your premises.

Slip and trip accidents increase during the Autumn and Winter season for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and as you state cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths. There are effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slip or trip.
Ice, frost and snow

To reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost or snow, you need to assess the risk and put in a system to manage it.

Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: – building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key.
You need to take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. Keep up to date by visiting a weather service site
Met office website
BBC weather website
Highways agency website
There are also smart signs on the market, available to buy at low cost, which display warning messages at 5 0 and below.

Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface
Use grit (see separate article below for more detail) or similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions.
Consider covering walkways e.g. by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.
Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.

If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.

Gritting – the pros and cons
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’. It is the substance used on public roads by the highways authority.

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.

No tests have been carried out on how much grit to use. As a guide, on roads a rate of approximately 10-15gms/m 2 for precautionary salting and 20-40gms/m2 during ice and snow conditions is recommended.

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. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.

Bags of rock salt can be purchased from most large Builders Merchants.

Other slip hazards can also arise from:
Wet and decaying leaves
Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can create slip risks in two ways, they hide any hazard that may be on the path or they themselves create a slip risk.
Put in place a procedure for removing leaves at regular intervals; you might even consider removing the offending bushes or trees altogether.
Rain water

When fitting external paved areas ensure that the material used will be slip resistant when wet.

Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.
On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.

Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.

If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip.

For further health & safety information visit www.macbethrisksolutions.co.uk

Author: Tony Gibbs | January 5th, 2010

Contact the author

Tony Gibbs
Get in touch:   Reading: 0118 916 5480   London: 020 7036 8767   info@macbeths.co.uk