Winter Weather Hazard Spotting

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The arrival of winter weather has made me think about inspections and incidents I have investigated whilst working as one of HM Inspectors of Health and Safety for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). There is an increase in the number of trips and slip incidents reported during the winter months due to darker nights, wet leaves, ice and snow.

Long range weather forecasters are predicting heavy and persistent snow, sub-zero temperatures and freezing gales in the UK at the beginning of 2020. Have you, as a business owner, got a winter policy? Have you started to implement the processes in preparation for the change of weather?

If not here are some points for you to consider:

• Clearing yards and pathways at your premises.

• Remove fresh snow fall in the morning, any sunshine in the day will help melt any ice underneath.

• Remember to cover the pathways with salt before nightfall to prevent it freezing again. Steps and steep pathways may require more salt.

• Do not use water as this could refreeze forming dangerous black ice! Use salt, sand or grit instead.

• If your business uses fork lift trucks in a yard area, ensure their operating area is safe to drive and increase supervision.

Winter driving

The Department of Transport recommend having a winter check offered by many garages to ensure your vehicle is road worthy for the harsh winter months.

This usually involves checking:

• Windscreen wipers and washers,

• Window demisters, and all lights are working correctly

• Tyre conditions and tread depths

• Battery condition and anti-freeze

It is also worth considering having a winter car kit just in case, as the previous snow fall in winter 2010 caught many travelling by road by surprise.

• This kit should contain:

• Ice scraper and de-icer

• Torch and spare batteries – or a wind-up torch

• Warm clothes and blankets – for you and all passengers

• Boots

• First aid kit

• Jump leads

• A shovel

• Road atlas

• Sunglasses (the low winter sun and glare off snow can be dazzling)

• Food and a thermos with a hot drink

• Any medication you, or other people travelling with you, need to take regularly.

Advise your employees of the value of ensuring all the necessary equipment and amenities in their cars when getting to and from work, but also check company vehicles are roadworthy and contain a full winter kit.

The Department of Transport recommend having a winter check offered by many garages.

Check the weather forecasts daily to assess the weather and take action pro-actively rather than re actively. This is particularly important for employees who travel from meeting to meeting, up and down UK motorways and side roads. Remember under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as an employer you have a general duty to ensure the health and safety of all employees.

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Elena Boura