Winter can pose significant health and safety challenges, particularly if jobs involve working at height. As the temperature drops, frosty mornings and icy conditions become more frequent and create the potential for slips, trips and falls. Don’t get caught out – keep your team safe with good preparation and planning.
The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice refers to snowy and icy conditions and makes clear that businesses must minimise the risks from snow and ice to a reasonable level. This may include gritting, snow clearing or closing off areas, particularly outside stairs, ladders, walkways and rooftops.
Staying Ahead of the Weather
The first step to staying safe is monitoring the conditions to prevent team members finding themselves in unsafe scenarios.
Assess the risks posed by ice, frost and snow and how these could affect height safety. Make an action plan which details how you will reduce ice formation or avoid risky areas. Put your bad weather procedure into practice whenever freezing temperatures are predicted. Keep up-to-date by visiting a weather service site such as the Met Office or Highways England .
The unpredictability of the weather can create further difficulties: keep an eye on any warning signs that conditions may change. Your action plan should also set out how to deal with icy conditions which arrrive unexpectedly. This will help minimise the possibility of workers finding themselves in dangerous situations.
Gritting using rock salt is a good way to stop ice forming on working surfaces or help melt existing ice or snow. Make sure you grit walkways, entrances, steps and emergency exits whenever frost, ice or snow is a possibility. It’s best to grit in the early evening before the frost settles, but watch out for rain which can wash salt away.
Keep your grit supplies well-stocked and always have basic equipment, such as shovels and grit spreaders on hand.
Diverting or Rescheduling
Some areas, especially outdoor steps or sloping surfaces, may not be possible to grit or make safe. In this case, divert workers to less risky routes and cordon off unsafe locations.
If you decide to use warning cones to mark unsafe areas, remember to remove them once the hazardous weather has passed or people may stop seeing them.
When there is no alternative route and an area is unsafe, reschedule work for when conditions improve. Elevated work stations which are exposed to the elements are particularly risky. Never work on roofs or sloping surfaces in icy conditions.
Team members need to understand the risks icy conditions present and be familiar with preventative measures. Make sure to communicate hazards and procedures through training sessions on site.
It’s also important to keep the whole team up-to-date with weather forecasts and changes to working activities, so no one ends up in a hazardous position.
The HITEWORX team is on hand to help with all your height safety and access challenges. Talk to one of the team today on: 0333 234 1801. Or, make an enquiry online and one of our access systems experts will get back to you.