Any business that invites members of the public onto its premises should undertake a risk assessment of reasonably foreseeable winter weather conditions and the ways in which they might affect the safety of persons on their premises. The aim of the risk assessment is to determine what precautions are needed to make the premises, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe for employees and visitors - although it is not possible to eliminate risk entirely.
The precise circumstances facing your employees and visitors in the conditions created by winter weather will determine the nature and extent of precautions that should be taken for their safety.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, employers have legal duties towards their employees and others who may be affected by the conduct of their undertaking - and these duties extend to providing safe access and egress to and from their premises. How that is achieved is a matter for each employer to decide.
There is also a legal duty of care to visitors under the Occupier's Liability Act. Occupiers of premises must take reasonable care to ensure that visitors are reasonably safe whilst using the premises for the purposes for which they have been invited or permitted to be there. In many circumstances, this might include making pathways safe for visitors in winter weather conditions.
Clearing snow and ice is a matter over which each organisation or individual must make their own decision, based on their legal obligations and ability to do the work properly, including making adequate provision for the safety and health of the employees and/or contractors engaged to perform it.
A winter weather risk assessment should cover the ways in which reasonably foreseeable winter weather conditions could affect the safety of employees and visitors, bearing in mind that reasonably foreseeable winter weather now includes freezing temperatures and snowfall sustained over a period of days or weeks, without any thaw during the daytime - and your assessment should also:
Action to implement the findings of your risk assessment should include:
You can use any kind of salt to melt snow or prevent the formation of black ice - but do not use the supplies in local authority salt bins, which they use to treat roads. Sand or ash grit can be used instead of salt; it provides some grip on the surface - but it is not as effective in preventing the formation of ice.
It is true that it is probably better to do nothing than to make matters worse by doing a bad job of snow and ice clearing (which is a principle that applies to anything we do as organisations or individuals) - but it is best to make a good job of snow and ice clearing to make conditions safer, if you are responsible for the safety of people on your premises.
For further help and information regarding Risk Management, please contact:
David Williams at Bridge Insurance Brokers Ltd on 0161 234 9376,
or email firstname.lastname@example.org