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Managing Adverse Weather

28 Nov

Slips and trips in the workplace increase considerably during the Autumn and Winter months and employers need to ensure that they plan ahead in order to minimise the risks caused by adverse weather conditions. Employers should consider the following:

Lighting

Employers need to assess whether there is adequate lighting around their workplace for people to be able to see and avoid any potential hazards.

The easiest way to do this is to ask your employees. Another approach is to shadow employees for a couple of days and walk the main pedestrian routes that they use throughout their working day. It is important to do this both inside and outside of the workplace, as the effect of light changes during the day.

If hazards on the ground cannot be seen, then lighting will need to be improved. For example, new lights or different bulbs may be required.

Wet and Decaying Leaves

Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can hide any hazard that may be on a path or create a slip risk.

To reduce the risk, employers should put in place a procedure for removing leaves at regular intervals or even consider removing the offending bushes or trees altogether.

Rainwater

Any wet surface presents an obvious slip hazard and when laying external paved areas, employers should ensure that the material used will be slip-resistant when wet.

Employees should also be discouraged from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which is likely to become slippery when wet and consideration should be given to converting any existing shortcuts into proper paths.

On new sites, before laying paths, employers should consider how pedestrians are likely to move around the site, as putting paths in the correct place at the start will save money in the long term.

Many slips occur at the entrance to buildings as people entering the building walk-in rainwater. Consideration should be given to fitting canopies over building entrances, installing absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip.

Ice, Frost and Snow

To reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost or snow, employers should develop an action plan that includes:

  • Identifying outdoor areas used by pedestrians that are most likely to be affected by ice, i.e. building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet
  • Monitoring the temperature, as prevention is key
  • Taking action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast

Consideration should also be given to the use of smart signs which display warning messages at 500 and below. These are available to buy at a relatively low cost.

Employers should also develop a procedure to prevent icy surfaces from forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface, including:

  • Using grit (see below) or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions
  • Covering walkways, e.g. by using an arbour high enough for people to walk through or using an insulating material on smaller areas overnight
  • Diverting pedestrians to less slippery walkways and fencing 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 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’ and is the substance used on public roads.

Salt stops ice forming and causes 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 to use salt are early in the evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly, and it needs enough time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.

If grit is used 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.

Need advice?

For further information, please contact Lauren Hill on 02920 853794 or at lauren.hill@thomas-carroll.co.uk.