This time of year the weather can turn decidedly yucky, and while for most of us it can just be a bit of annoyance, for businesses it can result in lost income due to staff not making it into work, causing issues for delivery drivers, or staff injury either on or off of their business premises, not to mention power outages and supply chain issues.

But what can you do about it as a business? Have you produced or had produced for you a risk assessment for your business so you know of any hazards for your staff or visitors – are you aware of legislation regarding who is liable for any injuries obtained on property owned by your business or the paths and pavements outside it? It wasn’t so long ago that there were stories in the media warning people not to take on clearing snow themselves as they could be held liable for it.

Although there is no law preventing you from clearing snow and ice that is on the paths and pavements surrounding your business if you undertake this unless you do it correctly you could end up being liable for any injury caused.

The Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 states in Reg 12 Condition of floors and traffic routes that “So far as is reasonably practicable, every floor in a workplace and every traffic route in a workplace shall be kept free from obstruction and any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall.”

In addition to this the HSE Health Safety and Welfare Regulations – Approved Code of Practice, also says that “Arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow and ice. This may involve gritting, snow clearing and/or the closure of some routes, particularly outside stair, ladders and exposed walkways.”

Which basically means you as a businesss, need to make sure that frequently used paths which get covered with frost or snow are cleared, gritted or salted to help prevent people slipping. There is no need to clear an entire area of snow if the public or employees are unlikely to walk on it though.

Make sure that you don’t leave the pathways in a more dangerous state then they were, for instance if they refreeze and you end up with black ice on them.

With a little bit of planning and forethought you can safely clear your paths and ensure you comply with the above legislation.

Clearing snow early in the day is often easiest as the snow is still fairly fresh and hasn’t been compacted by people walking over it. Also by removing the top layer of snow early – you are giving the winter sun a chance to melt the ice beneath, which them means you can cover the area with salt to prevent it refreezing over night.

If you don’t have enough salt, you can also use sand or ash on a path, which although it won’t stop the refreezing, it will at least provide grip to those trying to walk on it.

If this is your first winter then it might be worth employing a specialist health and safety company to do comprehensive health and safety audit and risk assessment for you.