After a couple of months of unseasonably mild weather, Winter has finally made an appearance across the British Isles, with stormy, wet westerlies giving way to chilly northerlies, frosty mornings and picturesque landscapes. Yet, behind the facade of all this Winter beauty, as the nation's commuters discovered this morning, this also means black ice when driving, and slip, fall and trip hazards in ungritted company car parks and footpaths, a hidden risk that your employees can do without and that could put your company in tricky legal waters if it has not fulfilled its duty of care.
Changeable Winter Weather
The recent frosts across the nation have been brought about by a shift in the Jet Stream, which, as the MetDesk weather chart clearly shows, is now bringing down colder wind from Iceland over the British Isles. Whilst the longterm forecast indicates the possibility of a severe February and March for the British Isles, the current pattern is only a first small sign and we're still expecting some unpredictable highs and lows in the immediate week ahead, with periodic snap frosts interspersed with rain and wind from the Atlantic.
The Beauty Of Winter
This morning, budding photographers will have had their fill of winter beauty across the British Isles with clouds of low hanging fog across frosty fields, as was pictured in Surrey On Newland's Corner near Guildford only this very morning:
That said, despite gritters doing the rounds across the nation, black ice is a very real phenomenon, as this motorist discovered:
Despite black ice being largely seen as a problem for roads, black ice can also occur in car parks and footpaths when there's a water runoff onto those facility assets during winter and that water runoff freezes. In fact, one of the first things that GRITIT does when evaluating your car parks and footpaths for your free winter safety site evaluation is to identify such vulnerabilities for you, so that you can prevent the problem for you before it even occurs.
What Are My Responsibilities As An Employer?
As identified in the IWIFM Winter Risk Management Guide, a winter maintenance plan should be an integral part of an organisation’s health and safety policy, and should include:
- A clear process with allocated overall responsibility for overseeing the plan and specific tasks assigned to individuals
- Detailed site specifications with identified hazardous areas and bespoke clearance and gritting instructions for each site including risk assessments and method statements
- Continuous monitoring of the plan and performance measurement against defined key performance indicators.
- The overall plan should be formally reviewed at the start and end of the winter season – October and April
- Plans to regularly maintain winter vehicles and equipment
- The procurement and maintenance of adequate supplies of clearance equipment, salt and grit bins to last through a harsh winter
- Procedures to communicate to all staff the safe operating procedures
What if it gets colder?
Nobody obviously actually knows for absolutely certain if the rest of this winter is set to be especially cold or not, although the indicators would tend towards a very cold early part of the year. Slips, trips and falls in car parks and on footpaths are common in the wintry months, and should the weather deteriorate even further, you may find that business and operations grind to a halt if you're not prepared for inclement weather. As a business, school, facility or factory, you can cover yourself by speaking to one of the experts at GRITIT. We'll cover any claims against you and we'll always be there to grit your facility and clear away the snow.