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Tips for Preventing Slips and Falls in Icy WeatherPosted on by Angela Rhodes
We’ve been pretty lucky up to now and not experienced too much in the way of cold weather but I suspect the freezing weather will arrive soon.
As employers, we have a duty to protect the safety of our employees (as well as any other visitors to our premises). One of our clients suggested that as they were tenants of a building and did not actually own the building themselves, they were not responsible if anyone slipped on the ice. This simply isn’t the case and this duty of care will still apply.
You need to ensure that all accessible external areas of the business are cleared of snow and ice. Just sticking a sign up is unlikely to be sufficient! However, you don’t have to clear snow and ice from public paths or roads close to your premises which are the responsibility of the local authority.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have provided a helpful list of practical precautions an employer can take to minimise the risk of anyone slipping or falling on ice, frost or snow on business premises as follows:
- 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 such as the Met Office or the Highways England.
- Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface;
- Use grit 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.
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.
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.
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