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Written by
on 01 February 2019

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Slips and falls are some of the most common workplace accidents. But when you add ice and snow to the mix, the dangers are even more pronounced.

Managing ice and snow on a construction site is absolutely essential. You are not only legally obliged to manage potential causes of accidents, like ice but doing so will also ensure your workforce remains fit and healthy.

So as temperatures drop and the risk of significant snow and ice increases, here’s how you need to prepare.

De-icing and prevention

Early morning frost is usually little more than an annoyance. But where surface water freezes overnight to form black ice, the dangers of slips and falls increases exponentially. Especially as thicker ice does not melt quickly, if at all.

When working over the winter months it is essential that walkways are kept as dry as possible. You should also grit or salt paths and gangways to prevent the formation of ice. It is much easier to deal with ice if it is not allowed to form in the first place.

Footwear

When it comes to construction sites, and personal protective equipment, we tend to focus on the need for steel toe-capped boots. But during the winter, the choice of footwear is even more important.

More than simply picking well-padded boots that keep your feet warm, the choice of sole will be of great importance. To reduce the risk of slipping, a worker will need rubber soled boots with a good amount of tread.

Dealing with snow at heights

Snow presents a number of risks to your workers, particularly as it collects on roofs, overloading scaffolding. Left uncleared, snow covers surfaces and hides obstacles that become trip hazards. Worse still, obscured skylights could result in serious, potentially fatal, fall if someone walks across the glass.

Large snow build-ups on roofs may also present a risk to people on the ground. As the snow melts or shifts, it can fall. Anyone passing below the snow as it falls could be injured, especially if they are hit by heavier, sharper lumps of ice. These incidents are thankfully rare here in the UK, but falling icicles kill 15 people in the US every year – and 100 in Russia.

You must ensure that snow is carefully cleared from roofs where people are working, or where they pass underneath. You can add snow clearing to your routine site inspection tasks during wintery weather.

Plan ahead

Managing snow and ice is much easier when you plan ahead. Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and ensure that surfaces are well-gritted the day before snow is due. And as mentioned above, take care to manage snow once it has settled.

For more help and advice on securing your construction sites and preparing risk assessments that better protect workers during the winter, please get in touch.

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Chartered health and safety consultant. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When he is not helping clients, David enjoys being a husband, dad, keeping fit, and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. You can get in touch on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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