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Winter Maintenance Legislation – What You Need to Know

While preparing and dealing with winter is not subject to any specific legislation, employers may find that their duties in ensuring their employees’ safety (as well as employees’ duties toward one another) change or increase during the winter months.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require all equipment and tools to be suitable for the task at hand, be regularly maintained and be inspected at reasonable intervals.  Remember that work equipment can be affected by winter conditions, especially if used outside.  It may therefore require more maintenance, cleaning, inspection and/or adaptation to deal with icy conditions, grit, ice or water in mechanisms and increase of loads due to snowfall to be suitable for the work required.

If work being carried out is affected by the winter weather so as to increase, change or introduce new risk then under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, you are required to carry out a review of your existing risk assessment and implement any such changes as may be reasonably required to ensure safety.  The assessment could include taking account of icy or snowy conditions and the effect of cold, ice or snow on workers and equipment.  Remedial action could include the extra maintenance or provision of work equipment, extra maintenance of the work environment, the provision of personal protective equipment, the provision of extra training to staff, and/or the changing of work processes to avoid or minimise risks to safety.  The HSE also recommends that you review and provide for conditions of lone workers during the winter months, especially if they are working outside as cold weather and shorter periods of daylight may place them more at risk.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 make it a requirement to make arrangements to minimise the risks from snow and ice within the workplace.  Floor and traffic routes might need extra maintenance to remove slip and trip hazards such as ice, snow or leaves.  New or extra matting at entrances will also help to maintain the traffic routes within your facility.  The gritting and clearing of pathways and access routes is recommended and closure of some should be considered.  You may also need to provide extra space or facilities for wet clothing as well as checking pipes to make sure they do not freeze.