Your Health & Safety Obligations During The Big Freeze

Peninsula Team

January 15 2010

Over the last few days the majority of calls to our 24 Hour Health & Safety Advice Service have concerned the current severe weather conditions and, in particular, the ice and snow covering car parks and access routes at the workplace.

 The question asked is: Do we have to grit?

Regulation 12 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations requires that “Every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be of a construction such that the floor or surface of the traffic route is suitable for the purpose for which it is used”.

An Approved Code of Practice, which has legal status, explains this requirement. It states:

Arrangements should be made to minimize risks from snow and ice, this may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly external stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs”.

This indicates that a sensible reasoned approach is required. Our advice is to identify key routes and keep them clear, close those that are not necessary and make sure that everyone knows what the ‘winter arrangements’ are. Gritting or providing salt causes some concern to employers in case it generates an increased liability in the event of an accident. This should not be the case where a sensible and reasoned approach is taken to managing snow and ice. Peninsula’s view is that access routes and areas that do pose a hazard because of ice and snow should be properly gritted.

The correct grade of rock salt and grit should be used and uniformly applied at the correct rate of application: 8 to 10gm per square metre when snow and ice is expected and 40gm per square metre is required to clear a build up of snow or ice. Once applied regular inspection of the cleared path is appropriate to assess whether further applications are required.

Where premises are shared all the occupiers should agree which areas should be cleared and or treated and which should not. In all cases sufficient staff should be allocated to carry out the clearance task (subject, of course, to risk assessment in the methods used). In some cases it may be preferable to use external contractors; if so you need to obtain detailed risk assessments from the contractor regarding how they will carry out the work. You should also check the contractor’s insurance status in terms of the protection provided by their work.

Where possible, try to plan ahead by checking weather forecasts, particularly those of ‘severe weather’ so that some preventive pre-treatment may take place.

The recent severe cold spell indicates the need for long term planning. Management need to make suitable decisions about dealing with snow and ice when it first becomes an issue and in the event of it remaining so for a longer period. You will need to consider the availability of equipment and supplies of salt and grit, the areas that are to be treated, when the treatments should be applied and who will do the work.

Finally, you should record the decisions made and the procedures for dealing with inclement weather. Despite clearance schemes and treatments, incidents may still occur and in the event of a claim your insurance company will require these detailed records.

Please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2785 if you require any further information or advice on this issue.

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