As the busy summer season comes to an end and the colder weather begins, builders merchants often move their focus over to stocktake, housekeeping, catching up on staff training and staff reviews. This is also a good time to start thinking ahead to the challenges presented by the changing weather and in particular, being prepared for snowfall and icy conditions.

How important is it to clear snow and ice from your carpark, paths, yards, roadways and boundaries? 

The guidance in the Workplace, (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations states: “So far as is reasonably practicable, every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be kept free from obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall.” It goes on to specify: “arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow or ice which may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders, and walkways on roofs.”

Will you be to blame if an employee or customer slips on snow or ice in your business?

You have a duty of care to anyone on your premises to provide an environment free from the risk of slipping. There is no exception for snowfall or icy conditions. 

Ice & Snow Clearance Procedure

It is important to establish an Ice & Snow Clearance Procedure to maintain safe access for staff, customers and vehicles around all key areas of your site by clearing snow and treating surfaces with rock salt. Management should monitor weather forecasts on a daily basis, during the Winter period and decide on when and how to implement this procedure:

  1. Prioritise – The priority should be to clear snow and apply salt to the main access routes around the site. Walkways should be sufficiently gritted or cleared of snow to allow pedestrians to use them in safety. If it is not possible to clear all routes, then a network of routes to access and egress the main buildings should be cleared and maintained. Consideration should be given to restricting access to any areas which cannot be made safe to pedestrians or vehicles.
  2. Signage – signage should direct pedestrians away from uncleared routes and towards cleared routes or warn of icy areas. 
  3. Nominated person – nominate someone for early arrival to reduce the impact of ice and snow on all main routes before opening hours. 
  4. Apply grit to steps, slopes and walkways (being careful to avoid people and property) in the afternoon or evening before an air frost (0◦c or below) or before the snow is forecast.
  5. Building entrances – Wintery conditions may also result in more water being trodden into buildings than is usual so thought should be given to ensuring floors are cleaned and dried or entrance mats used to control the risk of slipping.
  6. Supplies – supplies of rock salt need to be bought in advance and levels maintained over the Winter period. 
  7. Staffing – Staff will need to be deployed when snow fall or frost is forecast.
  8. Provide necessary PPE for staff – boots, high vis jacket and warm clothing. 
  9. Equipment/machinery – prior to the cold weather, all equipment and machinery used for gritting and snow clearance should be checked to make sure it’s in good working order. Equipment or machinery should only be used by trained staff, following risk assessment guidelines.