Winter weather tips

As temperatures plummet, it’s time to turn up the heat on health and safety

Louise Hosking, MD at Hosking Associates Ltd, offers some expert advice on how to keep your facility in full working order in the bleak mid-winter.

(Tomorrow’s FM, FM news coverage, p.54¬†– or to view PDF click here)

Published February 2015

_DSC2111 (Large)So far, the winter has been an eventful one – in terms of the weather. We have had heavy rainfall with flood warnings across much of Britain, wintery storms, and now snow. Temperatures have plummeted.With a higher risk of slips and trips, health and safety becomes even more of a concern during periods of bad weather. Our advice to FMs is to always plan ahead for the winter weather; companies should make sure they are ready and have a plan in place. Protecting the people who use your premises is paramount, as well as the business from possible legal action.

 

WINTER WEATHER HEALTH AND SAFETY TIPS

All businesses should regularly check they are not exposing others to potential slip, trip or fall risks; this can be undertaken by simple walk-through checks.

Ensure your surface water drains are running freely, so areas which can pond (or flood), and therefore freeze, do not become mini ice rinks. Likewise, deal with pot holes which can have the same effect. Prioritise busy paths if resources are tight.

Have a policy for snow clearance  especially if you have a large or multiple sites. Decide in advance how you will handle clearance and ensure you have the people, contractors, equipment and grit in place to meet potential demand. If you decide to work with a contractor, obtain references and make sure they have good weather prediction services in place. A good gritting contractor will organise all of this for you and ensure you are taking the right precautions on your site.

FMs who ask staff to participate in gritting should be sure safe systems are in place to undertake this. Gritting and snow clearance can be physically demanding work.

For FMs who manage a large site, it may become impossible to keep on top of clearance – in which case make plans to allocate safe access/egress routes which you can keep clear. Ensure you clearly communicate with site users where these safe routes are. This could be via signage, notices (e.g. a marked site plan), or by email depending on your business. It may be relevant to close parts of your site which cannot be made safe (for example exposed ramps on car parks). Again, work with your site users, tenants or residents so they are clear on what they can expect.

If you grit in the early morning, it is possible for slush to turn to ice as the sun goes down late afternoon, so you may need to look at whether further gritting will be necessary.

If your business needs to close, think about how you might communicate this information so everyone knows as soon as possible. If roads or routes are clearly treacherous, workers should not be expected to use their vehicles again organisations need to consider a) how they communicate this, and b) how they can minimise the potential impact it will have.

LEGAL CLAIMS

Finally, many FMs worry that if they clear snow/ice and someone slips they are more likely to be subject to claims than if they did nothing at all. Provided you have a policy in place, that you plan in advance and check the robustness of your arrangements once in place, this will not be the case. The clearance work which you undertake, and the plans you make now, may mean your business can operate when your competitors have had to close.

A recent article by the HSE should also provide further assurances http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/judith-risk-assessment/marypickles180113.htm

So, are you ready for the white stuff?