As we approach the autumn and winter months and the weather turns, the potential of slip and trip accidents occurring increases. According to the HSE, slips and trips account for over a third of all reported major injuries and cost employers £512 million per year as a result of lost production and other costs. Furthermore, it’s not just employees that are at risk. Slips and trips make up 50% of all reported accidents involving members of the public at a workplace.
The good news is, implementing health and safety measures for preventing slips and trips is straightforward and cost effective. To begin, employers need to assess the risks that rain, snow, frost and ice pose and put a system in place to manage them. Read our tips below for what to consider when conducting a risk assessment and identifying the necessary controls needed to reduce slip and trip accidents over the wetter and colder months.
Assessing and Managing Slips and Trips Risks
Slip and trip accidents increase during the autumn and winter months for many reasons, including because there is less daylight, wet leaves fall on the ground, and ice and snow build up on pathways, to name a few. Consider the following actions:
- Identify outdoor areas that are used by pedestrians and most likely to be affected by ice, such as building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.
- Monitor the temperature as prevention is key and take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast.
- Remove fallen leaves from pathways at regular intervals. You could even consider removing bushes/trees from which the leaves fall entirely.
- Consider whether there is enough lighting around the workplace (indoor and outdoor) for employees to see and avoid hazards on the ground.
- Choose slip resistant material when fitting external paved areas.
- Discourage employees and visitors from taking shortcuts over grass and dirt which are likely to become slippery with rain water.
- Consider changing entrance flooring to one which is non-slip, or at the very least install large, absorbent mats in your building’s entryway.
Preventing Icy Surfaces
Consideration should also be given to putting a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface, such as:
- Using grit, or similar, on areas that are prone to be slippery in frosty and icy conditions. See below for more detail.
- Covering walkways, for example by installing an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or by using an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.
- Diverting pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.
- If you use warning cones, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.
Gritting Outdoor Areas
Gritting is the most common method used to de-ice outdoor surfaces. It is quick to apply, easy to spread and relatively cheap. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the grit most frequently used, including by the Highways Authority on public roads, as salt can stop ice forming and melt existing ice or snow.
Employers should grit walkways within their demised premises and areas under their control when they know that they are likely to be damp or wet, or floor temperatures are at/below freezing, such as when frost, ice or snow is forecast. Grit should be applied in the early evening before the frost settles or early in the morning before employees and visitors arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly and needs adequate time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.
Avoid gritting when it is raining heavily as 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. You should also be aware that ‘dawn frost’ can appear on dry surfaces when early morning dew forms and freezes when it meets cold surfaces. However, it is difficult to know when or where this condition will happen.
Can We Help?
Please note, the list above is not exhaustive and should you need further advice about assessing and managing slip and trip risks, our Health and Safety team are on hand to help. For further information, please contact our team today by calling 02920 853794 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.