Much of the country has had a taste of wintry snow and ice over the last few days, blown in on a cold wind. This makes it a good time for a quick reminder on the requirements of health and safety law for both employers and employees to minimise the likelihood of trips and slips occurring.
In this post, we’re going to cover the relevant Legislation for employers and employees, steps to take to reduce risk, and how to plan for the winter months. On the way we’ll touch on the Occupier’s Liability Acts, both of which are a useful/interesting future topic of discussion on duties to lawful visitors and unlawful visitors (i.e. trespassers) – let me know by email or comment if you’d be interested in this.
It is a common myth that not gritting your paths and car parks is better from a civil liability point of view than gritting. However, The Occupiers Liability Act, the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992) require occupiers and employers to maintain safe access to premises.
Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires employees to take reasonable care of their own safety, including taking care when moving about in slippery conditions.
Minimising The Risks
When taking steps to clear snow and ice, prioritise areas of high pedestrian and vehicle traffic and times of day when traffic is highest. Usually this means gritting twice per day, in the morning and evening, or more frequently during periods of snowfall and ongoing icy conditions. You are not required to clear the public highway and the area of negligence around this is probably the source of confusion.
Snow and slush will be carried inside as people enter. Ensure that foot mats are adequate and water mopped up promptly. Wintry weather brings a risk of slips and falls inside as well as outside.
Planning for Winter Months
Write down now what you are going to do when snow/ice arrives. This is important if you need to refer back to your decision. Make sure that:
- Responsibility for clearing snow/ice is clearly understood by management, supervisors and employees.
- Those responsible for clearing understand when and how to do it.
- You provide the right tools (shovel, stiff brush, grit/salt) and allow sufficient time to do the job properly.
- Someone checks and records the effectiveness of the arrangements. For example, check the paths are clear twice a day, recording the check and when it was carried out. Check more frequently as conditions require (e.g. after a fresh snowfall).