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Employee slips on snow and ice: an employer’s responsibility?

Employee slips on snow and ice: an employer’s responsibility?

Employee slips on snow and ice: an employer’s responsibility?
Carl Marsh, Managing Director of ICEGRIPPER discusses employer duties to prevent injuries caused by snow and ice.

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If someone injures themselves at work as a result of slipping on snow or ice whose fault is it? There are increasing examples demonstrating the employer may be liable under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and supporting regulations.

Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from slips and falls in the course of carrying out their duties. This duty of care covers the place of work itself, external areas across which employees must travel to get to and from their place of work and also protecting workers who need to walk on icy pavements in order to carry out their duties.

A provision relating to winter conditions in the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Regulation 12(3) stipulates that surfaces of floors and traffic routes in the workplace should, so far as is reasonably practicable, be free from any article or substance that may cause a person to slip, trip or fall.

The Approved Code of Practice that interprets this regulation states that: “arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow and ice. This may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs.”

Increasing litigation: large companies and organisations
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There are numerous cases, easily found online, where the employer has been prosecuted under this obligation:
• Notttinghamshire Constabulary officer slipped on ice in loading bay and injured back- £43,000 compensation
• Construction site shuttering joiner awarded £4,500 after he slipped on an icy walkway at work that had not been gritted
• Inverclyde Council paid compensation of £30,000 to a school janitor employed by them after he suffered injuries to his back when he slipped on ice

What if the employee does not slip in the workplace? What if the employee slips on snow and ice in the course of their employment in the community for example postmen/women, care workers and refuse collectors? What duties does the employer have then?

Although it is the Highways Agency and local authorities responsibility for clearing public highways and pavements, it seems the law views it as a ‘best effort service’, depending on their available resources. There is not an absolute duty on them to keep footpaths clear of snow and ice - the courts accept that no local authority could keep a pavement free from snow and ice at all times. As local authorities have limited resources, courts accept that they have to prioritise certain routes. Provided that the authority has a winter maintenance plan in place and they can provide evidence that they have taken steps to implement that plan, the courts tend to be sympathetic.

Working outdoors: risk assessment
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How does this impact on employers who expect their employees to work outside in the winter months? When the ground may be covered in ice and snow, what safeguards should employers put in place for workers to minimise the risk of slipping and potentially serious injury?

Employers have a duty to ensure that the workplace is safe and that appropriate protective clothing is provided. Employers have to consider what risks their employees may face in performing their duties and should carry out appropriate risk assessments. If an employee is expected to walk extensively on areas of ground which may present a risk, it would be a sensible precaution for the employer to issue ice grips to those employees. Ice grips for shoes and boots are quick and easy to put on and take off and prevent slipping, even on glare ice. That’s why organisations with large outdoor workforces like Royal Mail automatically issue ice grips when icy weather is expected.

Ice grips: readily available from specialist suppliers
K1 Ice grips from ICEGRIPPER

Ice grips are readily available from specialists like ICEGRIPPER at various prices. ICEGRIPPER offers several products, which have proven effectiveness, even in demanding industrial environments. Quantity discounts are extended to Local Authorities, Educational Institutes, Health Authorities, Healthcare Professionals, Health & Safety Departments, Emergency Services, Voluntary Organisations and Charities. For more information contact ICEGRIPPER.

Have you slipped on snow or ice whilst at work? Are you an employer looking at the risks? We would love to hear your stories. Email us, or contact us through any of our social media sites, see the clickable links in the footer below.

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