“TO GRIT OR NOT TO GRIT?”
DEALING WITH ICY CONDITIONS
It will come as no surprise to hear that we have recently advised a number of clients about clearing ice and snow from their premises – no surprise there then BUT in giving this advice we have detected that an old ‘urban myth’ is alive and well. The ‘myth’ is that to do nothing to clear snow and ice reduces your liability in the event of someone slipping and injuring themselves because it is a natural phenomenon and people need to look out for themselves! This is a great example of muddled thinking.
We have even heard the argument – “Head Office have said don’t put down grit because of Health and Safety!!!” Commonsense indicates that slips are far less likely if pedestrian routes and particularly the busiest are treated and a few simple actions should not be outside what worst employers would be able to cope with. As with all safety matters, employers are required to take reasonably practicable measures or precautions to ensure health and safety at work. To argue that it was not reasonable to foresee that someone is likely to slip when walking on ice or snow is definitely muddled thinking.
So What Should You Do…?
Ice, frost and snow
As always the start point is an appraisal of the risk which in turn will identify some required actions. The following points should help you focus on the key areas:
Identify the outdoor areas most likely affected and that are used by pedestrians e.g. entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.
Monitor the actual and forecasted temperature and conditions underfoot.
Take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast.
Your actions should aim to prevent icy surfaces from forming and/or keeping pedestrians off slippery surfaces. This might include:
o Deploy grit/salt or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions.
o Consider temporary use of an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.
o Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.
Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.
Gritting (or to be more accurate, salting) should be carried out when frost, ice or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the floor temperatures are at, or below freezing. The best times are early in evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor so allow for this where you can.
If you grit when it is raining heavily, the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow.
Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit.
‘Dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.
A final note: - by grit of course we mean rock salt – unless it is your teeth that are gritted……