The rate of slips, trips and falls at workplaces in the UK is higher in the winter and autumn than spring and summer, for some obvious reasons. Firstly, there’s a lack of daylight, and obstacles and obstructions can be easily missed in the shadows outside. There’s much more precipitation carried indoors causing wet and slippery floors, and of course there are the freezing temperatures outside which lead to compacted snow and black ice. Every winter, hospital accident & emergency centres are filled with people who have broken their arms, legs and hips slipping on the ice, so paying extra attention to slip, trip and fall hazards when the weather turns means significantly reducing the risk of employee injuries.
Good lighting goes a long way to preventing slips and trips, indoors and out. The falling cost and incredible energy efficiency of LED lighting system makes it very economical to add extra illumination almost anywhere. As the Autumn wears on, fallen leaves become a major hazard as they get wet and start decomposing into a slippery mess, so a regular procedure should be in place to keeps the paths clear, and staff should be encouraged to stick to the paths and avoid shortcuts across grassed areas.
Building entrances can quickly become slippery, especially with smooth floors, as staff enter the building with water and mud on their shoes, so a series of absorbent mats at the entrance will do a great deal to reduce the slippery area to a minimum. It’s important to ensure you choose mats with beveled edges, to avoid creating a trip hazard in place of a slip hazard.
Keeping a careful eye on the weather will alert you to potentially freezing or frosty conditions, and a little advance warning will simplify measures to prevent slips and falls. A freezing weather procedure should include an assessment of the likely conditions, an evaluation of the most highly trafficked areas, and a plan to spread grit on all main paths and routes in and out of the premises. There are temperature activated signs available that will automatically warn people when the temperature dips below a certain level. Warning cones may be used to ensure staff only use cleared and gritted paths, but you must remove them promptly when conditions allow, or they will quickly become ignored.
It’s vital to get the grit (usually a mixture of rock salt and grit) onto paths and roads the evening before a frost settles, or in the morning before staff begin to arrive. Grit takes time to work, and needs to be reapplied after rain or further snowfall. With very heavy snowfall, paths must be properly cleared before gritting can be effective. If you don’t clear footpaths, they will quickly turn to compacted snow, which is very difficult to shift, sometimes remaining for weeks after all the other ice has melted.