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Winter’s coming... don't slip up!

On 22/11/13 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

The prospect of attempting an accurate weather forecast at this time of year makes me feel about as grim as the weather itself! The most reliable technique seems to be just looking out of the window… However, despite cautioning about the inaccuracies of predicting longer term weather patterns, there seems to be a lot of hype that we will be facing post-apocalyptic, cold and snowy conditions between now and February!

Post -apocalyptic or not, one thing that we can all be sure of is the inevitability of winter and the various hazards that this entails. Slips, trips and falls are the most common workplace accident and no less so than during the latter part of the year. Less daylight and the build-up of wet and slippery leaves as well as ice and snow can make roads and walkways about as treacherous as an Andean mountain path! However, always remember that employers and site owners have a duty of care, not just to their own staff but to anyone who accesses their site, meaning that now is the perfect time to ensure that appropriate measures to protect staff and visitors alike are in place.

First thing’s first, check the lighting conditions around your site or pub. Is this sufficient for visitors or staff to see and avoid hazards at ground level? If necessary, improving lighting doesn't have to mean installing new ones and is more likely to be a case of replacing dead bulbs or even changing the type normally used. If lights are timed then check that these are set correctly. If new lights are needed make sure that these are fit for purpose and situated so as to evenly and clearly illuminate all walkways and paths.

Now that the lighting is sorted, make sure that all paths and walkways are clear of obstructions. During the autumn wet leaves and puddles can be treacherous. Piles of soggy leaves can become slippery as they decay and can also hide hazards such as uneven paving slabs or holes and uneven surfaces. According to the HSE, most slips occur at building entrances where people enter a site with wet shoes. Again, solutions are not always expensive and whilst installing an entrance canopy may be ideal, clearing immediate hazards and the use of absorbent mats will offer a greater degree of protection against slips.

Ultimately, perhaps the greatest seasonal challenge to employers is from ice and snow. At this time of year such conditions are unpredictable but employers must have a system in place to assess and manage this risk and now is the time to make sure that this is ready.

Start by identifying those outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: - building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet. In terms of preventing hazards caused by the build-up of ice and snow, proactivity is key. Grit and salt will work on contact but are far more effective when ground into the surface. Monitor weather services for early signs of icy conditions or snow to allow time to prepare paths and walkways to prevent icy surfaces from forming. However, preventing build-up of ice may be difficult as winter progresses so regularly assess where paths and walkways are worst affected by such conditions and use cones or barriers to divert people to paths that are less icy.

Health and safety may at times seem like an endless task but it is vitally important to the wellbeing of staff and visitors alike and in turn is a fundamental part of the duty of care that employers hold. So with autumn well and truly established and winter on the way, take some time and consider some of the steps above to make sure that everyone who accesses your brewery or pub can do so without incident...oh, and...stay safe out there!


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