Safeguarding against ice and snow
It’s that time of year again when the nights draw in, the temperature drops, and the risk of ice, snow and frozen pipes become an issue for facilities managers up and down the country.
Slip and trip accidents increase during the Autumn and Winter season for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths.
For those responsible for ensuring that businesses stay operational throughout the Christmas period and that, no matter what the weather brings, staff and visitors can visit and work safely during adverse conditions, there are some basic precautions that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of disruption or injury.
While we always recommend people consult with a professional and ideally would have a plan in place already, if you haven’t then your first step should be to make an assessment of your site needs. It doesn't need to be a huge undertaking, especially for those on smaller sites and facilities.
Assess and review for accessibility and safety at all entrances and exits, as well as parking areas that you are responsible for. Consider how visitors and staff will access buildings and travel around the site during periods of potential snow and ice. You need to have safety in mind at all times – exposure to risk needs to be minimised.
Once an assessment has been done, then review with your team or business on how you will deal with adverse weather. Evaluate how much grit you will need to treat ‘at-risk’ areas, and how and when they will be treated.
You may think you are able to manage the site during bad weather with current staff. Indeed this may be an option, but for many facilities having a partner in winter has a range of benefits, and is often essential to meet health and safety requirements. At this stage, consider making contact with a maintenance provider.
Remember if someone trips or is hurt on your site you may be liable. Having a secure winter maintenance plan in place means you will have the evidence to show you took due care to protect those on your site. Additionally, staying open during bad weather ensures your reputation as a reliable facility or business can give you a real advantage - particularly if nearby businesses or competitors have had to close.
If you’ve decided to manage the effects of snow and ice within your company make clear plans of who is responsible and when gritting will take place.
Ensure signage is prepared to show visitors and staff routes to take when the ground is icy and make sure these are properly gritted whenever and wherever necessary. Let employees know your winter policy. If the weather becomes too bad, consider closing the office and notify staff before they leave their house.
The ultimate goal of a winter maintenance programme is to minimise disruption, whilst ensuring site safety. To do this efficiently and effectively can mean outsourcing gritting and snow clearance to an outside company.
Choosing a winter maintenance provider
Finding a winter maintenance provider does require some consideration and, whilst it may be tempting to go for the cheapest or first option, especially when planning late, this may result in a complete waste of valuable budget if your chosen provider doesn’t deliver the right service or consider your unique needs.
High-quality services mean your business or facility are properly covered and protected from the adverse effects of snow and ice. Gritting is more of a bespoke service than many imagine. It’s not just about putting salt on the ground when it’s cold. Sometimes there are better materials for treating surfaces and only an experienced provider can guide you on that.
When choosing a provider you should consider the following:
- Do they communicate clearly and respond quickly to queries?
- Do they want to perform a specific site survey?
- What technology and forecasting do they use?
- Are their workers skilled and dedicated to the job?
- Can they show good working practice?
- Do they have clear audit trails?
Remember for next year to begin your winter partnership journey as early as possible but, for now, don’t panic and get started on the steps above to protect yourself from the physical, financial and reputational damage that can arise from bad weather.