Winter maintenance firm GRITIT describes what businesses need to do to plan effectively
The extraordinarily cold weather blasting the UK is a reminder to all businesses of their responsibility to protect people from the risks of slips and falls in icy conditions.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reports show that around five million days are lost each year through workplace injuries, costing the UK economy billions of pounds.
Slips trips and falls account for over a third of employee injuries – making up more than half of all reported major injuries and almost 29 per cent over-seven-day injuries – and more than 50 per cent of such accidents take place during the coldest months of the year.
With the current levels of snow and ice, many businesses are currently at the highest level of exposure to such dangers.
Worrying, many companies may be ill prepared to face these risks; research by the British Institute for Facilities Management found that almost a quarter of their members said the organisation doesn’t actually have a winter maintenance plan in place – and of those that do, 26 per cent fail to review it annually. But how prepared do businesses need to be when the bad weather hits?
Meeting your duty of care to employees and avoiding liabilities
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that an employer has a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, including the provision of a safe working environment. This duty of care also extends beyond staff to anyone visiting, or passing by the facility, including suppliers on company business and members of the public.
As a result, every organisation must be able to demonstrate that they have done everything reasonably possible to meet their duty of care. Any plan has to ensure compliance with all health and safety legislation and that effective steps have been taken to make sites safe for staff and customers during harsh winter weather.
Failing to get things right can have a major effect on any individuals who come to harm and also to an organisation’s reputation and its finances. There is also the risk of legal action. Over the past few years there has been an increase in litigation with slipping-on-ice accidents having the potential for the most high-value claims and compensation.
A winter maintenance plan
A proactive and fully managed approach to winter maintenance can help businesses prevent accidents and mitigate potential liability claims.
Ultimately, this comes down to having a robust winter-maintenance plan that is embedded into an organisation’s health and safety policy. By doing so, businesses can meet their duty of care, achieve compliance, manage risk, and meet insurers’ expectations. Furthermore, when the bad weather does arrive, acting on the basis of a clear plan can be key to ensuring business continuity.
Your adverse weather policy should clearly communicate how your organisation will manage or take action in extreme weather situations.
Key aspects of any effective plan include:
- Use of a recognised health and safety management system such as OHSAS1800115 to ensure the plan is fit for purpose;
- Clearly defined and communicated responsibilities – both on the ground and with a senior champion to ensure high-level management buy-in;
- A process for documenting the proactive actions, incidents and investigations undertaken with records maintained and kept for a minimum of three years;
- Ensuring the plan is based on detailed surveys to identify hazard areas and that action is undertaken according to real time accurate weather data and agreed action triggers for service;
- Adequate resourcing with either professional contractors or a dedicated trained in-house team, sufficient and well-maintained PPE;
- And clearly defined KPIs to measure performance against and a process to review the plan and any KPIs on a regular basis (at least bi-annually).