To Grit or Not to Grit?

In simple terms the answer is YES, as common sense should dictate. Under the Occupiers Liability Act and the Health & Safety at Work Act you have a duty to exercise “reasonable care”.

In assessing what is “reasonable” in all the circumstances; undoubtedly, we will all have different opinions. However, there is sufficient case law to conclude that doing nothing is unacceptable. So, when thinking about what is “reasonable”, that begins with giving the issue some thought (assessing the risks, considering the resources currently available, their adequacy, and identifying the steps that can be taken to address the hazard in a structured and proportionate way).

The practical answers to that process will have lead the occupier to:

  • Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice
  • Identify those thoroughfares most likely to be used on a given day
  • Monitor the temperature
  • Take preventative measures where freezing and/or snow is forecast
  • Apply procedures to prevent the formation of ice or the build-up of snow (gritting and shovelling)
  • Keep pedestrians off slippery or untreated surfaces (warnings and even “no entry, untreated path” signs)

How do I stop slip accidents happening in icy conditions?

  • Use grit or something similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions
  • Consider covering walkways, eg by an arbour high enough for people to walk through. Or, use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight
  • Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and separate off existing ones with a barrier
  • If you can’t tackle some paths regularly, let your employees know where you will focus your efforts.
  • If warning cones are used, remove them once the ice/ snow has gone, or people will ignore the signs
  • Ensure lighting is maintained on all vehicular and pedestrian routes.
  • In choosing the staff to conduct the application of the grit, consideration should be given to their physical capability and appropriate personal protective equipment (warm clothing, boots)

What is the best way to use grit?

Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians which are most likely to be affected by ice, eg building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas, and areas constantly in the shade or wet. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’. It is the substance used on public roads by the Highways Agency and is available from builders’ merchants. 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 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 the 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. 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. Be aware that ‘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.

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.

Associations & Accreditations

  • IFE
  • IFE
  • IFE
  • IFE
  • British Safety Council
  • CHAS
  • Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  • Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance
  • Association for Project Safety
  • British Abrasives Federation
  • National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health
  • Investors In People
  • Invicta Chamber of Commerce
  • Institute of Occupational Safety & Health
  • Docklands Business Club

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