November 24, 2017

Tis the Season to Carry Out Health & Safety Risk Assessments for the Cold Weather

With the first signs of winter just around the corner, we look at some simple ways to keep people safe and healthy when thing get slippery.

It’s almost become a winter tradition in the UK to be caught unawares by “sudden” cold snaps, the “wrong kind” of snow and plummeting temperatures.

But as the nights draw in and the heating goes on, you can be sure it won’t be long before we’re waking up to frosty mornings, icy pavements and the first snowfalls.

So what does the law have to say around cold weather?

The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L24 for the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (ACOP 12 paragraph 116) explicitly refers to snowy and icy conditions:

“Arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow and ice. This may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs.”

Treat risk assessments for cold weather the same as any other workplace risk

You need to assess the risks posed by ice, frost and snow in the same way you would all other workplace risks, and then implement appropriate systems and controls.

The unpredictability of the weather adds an element of uncertainty that makes it crucial to plan ahead and monitor any warning signs that conditions may change.

The HSE’s online guidance stresses the importance of:

  • Identifying outdoor pedestrian areas most likely to be affected by ice, such as building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, short cuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade
  • Monitoring the weather forecasts; you need to act whenever freezing temperatures are forecast, so keep up-to-date by visiting Met Office or Highways Agency websites
  • Implementing procedures to prevent an icy surface forming and for keeping pedestrians off a slippery surface, which may include:
    1. Gritting
    2. Clearing snow and ice
    3. Diverting to less slippery areas
    4. Signs (remember to remove the signs once the hazard has gone or people do not see the signs)
    5. Others as may be required on your site

Things to consider

Other things to think about when planning for cold weather are whether you need to take extra steps to protect vulnerable groups – for example disabled people or new and expectant mothers – whether you should reduce on-site speed limits and/or improve segregation between vehicles and pedestrians.

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About the author

Terry Rebanks