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Preparing for Winter Conditions30th November 2012

With the onset of winter, now is the time to ensure that arrangements are made to minimise risks from snow and ice to your employees and anyone else who may visit your premises.  This may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs.  Ensure you undertake a suitable risk assessment and make the necessary arrangements in plenty of time.  In light of the bad weather we are currently experiencing, we are often asked questions relating to the clearing of snow etc.  Please find below our typically asked question and our response.

Question

Our Company occupies a large site with numerous footpaths and traffic routes.  I am concerned that during winter months many of these routes will become dangerous through ice, or snowfall.  What should we do to prevent any possible incidents?

Answer

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Duty-holders must ensure that adequate arrangements are in place to minimise the risks from snow and ice on pedestrian/vehicle traffic routes.

This may call for an appropriate policy and procedures on the clearance of ice/snow from affected routes.  Such a policy should set out who is responsible for the procedures and must be clearly brought to their attention.  It should also ensure that the appropriate equipment and materials are provided, along with suitable training for those carrying out the work.

An assessment of the site can be undertaken to determine what routes will take priority.  Areas such as escape routes, footpaths, on-site roads, car or vehicle parking areas and other areas staff and visitors may need to use and the characteristics of routes, for example any slopes or bends that may be present.

You must also take into consideration those with special needs.

In large premises, a simple plan of the building may be drawn up showing the paths or other hard areas that may need to be cleared and monitored.  This plan can be kept in a ‘snow & Ice’ folder along with details of staff responsible, written instructions, inspection logs, location of tools, details of salt and grit suppliers, etc.

Thought should be given as to when to clear routes.  An early warning of snow or icy conditions may allow for priority areas to be salted and gritted in advance – for example, during the previous evening or afternoon.

Wintry conditions may also result in more water being trodden into buildings than is usual, so thought should be given to ensuring that floors are cleaned and dried or mats put down at the main entrances to help control the risk of slipping.

In prolonged poor weather, arrangements should be made for access routes to be inspected regularly following salting and gritting – possibly at the start of the day, before lunch, and before the end of the working day.  Results of such inspections should be recorded in a ‘snow & ice’ log and any further action to clear salt and grit should be completed before people leave the building, to minimise the risk of incidents.

All staff should be notified of any such arrangements and advised to use cleared access/egress routes at such times. 

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