Employees out and about in icy conditions?
The Supreme Court recently held a company liable for injuries occurring to an employee who slipped on ice on a pathway and broke their wrist. This case was one where the injured person worked for a domestic care company and was visiting a service user to give care to them. The female employee was wearing somewhat inadequate footwear for the conditions but the Court held that the employer was still in breach of health and safety legislation because:-
- They hadn’t risk assessed what could happen to an employee when faced with visiting premises when it was icy
- Even though they had instructed employees to wear ‘appropriate footwear in all circumstances’, they hadn’t advised employees on the type of footwear to use in such conditions
- They hadn’t provided personal protective equipment by way of some form of non-slip shoe add-ons.
Therefore, if you employ anyone who has to make visits to premises and the weather may be icy, you need to:-
- Check that your risk assessment for that function covers walking in icy conditions and what they should do to minimise risk
- Advise them of the type of footwear to use (e.g. sturdy with a good grip)
- If thought suitable, provide them with non-slip add-ons and get them to sign for them.
Clearing Pathways etc
- With the advent of far more specific and accurate weather forecasting, no-one should be ‘caught out’ by a fall of snow. Once it has happened we then get into the controversial matter of ‘to clear or not to clear’.
- Employers have a duty under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to keep surfaces free from substances which may cause a person to slip. If an employee has an accident and alleges that this was your fault, they might claim that you failed in your statutory duty under these Regulations.
- If you’re responsible for external areas (you – not your landlord), keep some equipment to clear snow and a supply of grit handy. Don’t try to clear everywhere, concentrate on creating a defined pathway and then make sure that it is properly gritted.
- If in any doubt, use barriers and signs to close any footpaths that haven’t been gritted or otherwise cleared.
- Send an e-mail to staff and have a copy visible in reception or other place where visitors may be, stating –
“Notice to all staff and visitors. Please take extra care during freezing weather condition.. Whilst we make every effort to ensure that external surfaces are free from slipping hazards under normal weather conditions, this is not possible during the very cold temperatures we are experiencing at present. Please be extra vigilant.”
- Keep a log to record what action you’ve taken and when.
The Government ‘Snow Code’
The Code encourages individuals not to be put off from clearing paths and suggests that they should follow these tips:
Tip 1. Start early: it’s much easier to remove fresh, loose snow than compacted ice. Removing the top layer of snow will allow the sun to melt any ice beneath, but make sure you cover any ice with salt to stop it refreezing overnight.
Tip 2. Do not use hot water. This will melt the snow, but may replace it with black ice.
Tip 3. Particular care and attention should be given to steps and steep gradients to ensure snow and ice is removed.
Tip 4. If shovelling snow, consider where you are going to put it, so that it doesn’t block other paths or drainage channels.
Tip 5. Make a pathway down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then you can shovel the snow from the centre to the sides.
Tip 6. Spreading some salt on the area you have cleared will help to prevent any ice forming. You can use table salt or dishwasher salt, but leave the grit in salting bins for keeping roads clear.
Tip 7. If there’s no salt available, then sand or ash, whilst not having the same de-icing properties as salt, will improve grip under foot.
If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01206 363712 during office hours.