Winter is nearly approaching, so it is a prudent time to remind Managers and others responsible for safety, to raise the awareness of their workforces to the additional hazards this time of the year can present.
Slip and trip accidents increase during Autumn and Winter for a number of reasons:
- There is less daylight and some walkways and pathways are not well lit;
- Leaves fall onto paths and roads which in turn become wet and slippery; and
- Colder weather can cause ice or other wintry affects like snow to lay on the ground, build up on paths and make driving conditions hazardous
The following are effective actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of a slip / trip incident.
LIGHTING - Is there is enough lighting around your workplace for you and your workers to be able to see and avoid any hazards that might be on the ground?
The easiest way to find out is to simply walk the main internal and external routes that are used by workers throughout their working periods.
It is important to do this both inside and outside of the workplace as the effect of light is changing, during the day. If you cannot see hazards on the ground (including changes in level – stairs or steps) you will need to improve the lighting (i.e., new lights, changing the type of bulb or even highlighting the “nosing” (front edge) of the step / stair with luminous paint or strips).
Also remember that the nights are now drawing in and you and your employees will likely be using lights that may not normally be used during the spring or summer months, so check they all work.
This is also true for emergency / escape lighting. During the winter they can be instrumental in saving lives that would not be at risk in the summer months when there is sufficient light with which to see.
Make sure all emergency lighting is in working order by having them checked by a suitably qualified electrician (if this is not already on your list of items conducted by rote annually) and then check them regularly (monthly) to ensure they are being kept in good working order (to comply with the legalities).
WET and DECAYING LEAVES - Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can create slip trip risks in two ways:
- They can hide hazards that may be on the path underneath them; or
- They in themselves are a slip risk.
It is important that as a part of managing the site itself, a procedure is in place for managing slip / trip hazards and this will include removing or clearing up leaves at regular intervals; it might even be a consideration to remove any bushes or trees altogether if the landscaping of the site is within your purview.
RAINWATER - If there are external paved areas to use or navigate on the site...
…it would be helpful if the material used when putting them in place or if conducting any maintenance of the areas consist of a slip resistant type material, especially when it gets wet. Also:
- Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. It may even be worth considering converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.
- On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.
- Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.
- If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, 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 whilst working in the winter conduct a risk assessment...
and assess the risk the work activities present and then put place the precautions (your safe system of work) to manage it:
- Identify the 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;
- Monitor the temperature, remembering that PREVENTION IS KEY;
- Take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. Keep up to date by visiting a weather service site such as the Met Office.
- There are also smart signs on the market, available to buy at low cost, which display warning messages at 100C and below;
- Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and / or to keep pedestrians off the slippery surface;
- Use grit or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions;
- Consider covering walkways i.e., 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.
- Use grit or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions;
- 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. It is relatively cheap, quick, and easy to apply and spread.
Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’ used on the public roads by the highways authority.
It stops ice forming and causes existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this takes 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 either early in evening before the frost settles and / or early in the morning before employees arrive.
Salt does not 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’ also occurs on dry surfaces when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface.
It is difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.
DRIVING - For those employees who drive as a part their duties, adverse weather conditions (rain, snow, frost, standing water, cold, ice, fog)...
…and longer hours of darkness are not only harder to drive in, but present hazards of their own to look out for.
By providing the reminders below to your employees, drivers who follow the advice – whether they are driving for work or just using their vehicle to get to and from work – will be safer when driving in these conditions:
- Conduct a thorough pre-use check of the vehicle, are all fluid levels OK, are tyre pressures and tread depths OK, are all lights working, are all windows clear and both sets of number plates legible;
- Make sure the vehicle has enough fuel for the journey and allow for extra time to complete it so that if you need to reduce your speed – you will not need to be “in a hurry” afterwards;
- Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front – in ice and or snow a stopping distance should be regarded as needing to be ten times as long;
- Remember snow is visible but ice, especially black ice, is often not;
- When driving in reduced visibility, such as rain or fog, use dipped headlights to the front and switch on rear fog lights, using windscreen wipers to keep windscreens clear;
- Remember to turn fog lights off when no longer required as they can be a distraction to other road users in normal visibility;
- Avoid sudden braking, harsh acceleration or sharply applied steering manoeuvres;
- Keep lights and indicators clean;
- Carry a torch, a spade, extra warm clothing, Wellington boots, a blanket, a snack and a hot drink, especially if you are driving through isolated areas;
- If you are planning a long journey advise someone of your destination and approximate expected arrival time. If you have one, carry a mobile phone with you, ensuring it is fully charged, BUT not for use whilst driving;
- If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable driving in adverse weather conditions, consider whether your journey is necessary at that time or whether it can be postponed. Consider whether an alternative method of transport would be better or even a Zoom meeting;
- If stranded by bad weather, try to ensure that you are not blocking access for the emergency services. Remain with the vehicle unless there is shelter nearby. Maintain your circulation by moving your body. If you can, use the engine to keep warm; but do not use the engine if the exhaust cannot vent safely. If you are snowed over, ensure that an airway is maintained.
H&S Winter Alert: Are your Risk Assessments up to date?
Are all your risk assessments up to date and in good order, with the precautions and procedures understood and followed by the workforce.
If so, WELL DONE. If not then this would be a good time to review and where necessary update them and ensure that your workers are using the most up to date risk assessments and safe systems of work to keep themselves safe.
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