Seasonal safety – quick compliance tips to avoid accidents this winter

Temperatures are down, decorations are up and winter is officially here. Every season delivers different safety concerns – and winter compliance can be especially challenging. Being winter-ready is essential to reduce the risk of slips on icy ground and head off workplace transport incidents before they happen.

This month, we’re sharing solutions to your top three cold-weather safety issues to protect your business through December, January and beyond.

Snow and ice procedures

Forget the myths around to grit or not to grit. Each of your branches has a legal requirement to provide a safe working and retail environment so far as is reasonably practicable.

Guidance in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 says, ‘Arrangements should be made to minimise risks from snow or ice, which may involve gritting, snow clearing and closure of some routes, particularly outside stairs, ladders and walkways on roofs.’

This may not mean that gritting or salting your entire yard is viable, but common traffic routes and customer walkways from the carpark to the counter and shop are important. To make the most of your gritting efforts:

  • Ensure you have enough rock salt in the branch. Take stock regularly and keep levels topped up until March at the earliest.
  • Barrier off dangerous areas on your site that can’t be gritted, making sure safe diversions are treated and clearly signposted.
  • Monitor weather forecasts to ensure you grit at the ideal time. Apply rock salt to steps, slopes and walkways in the afternoon or evening before an air frost (0◦c or below) or before an expected snowfall.

Need further advice on yard safety in freezing conditions? Check out last month’s guidance on establishing your snow and ice procedure.

Working at height during the holidays

In our August newsletter, we discussed working at height and the importance of protecting customers from fall risks. During December, when branches are transformed for the festive season, it’s often staff who need a safety refresher.

Here’s how to minimise holiday hazards:

  • Take care when retrieving seasonal decorations, including the Christmas tree. We’ve seen many trees stored on flat office roofs throughout the year. If that’s the case in your location, make sure workers don’t risk serious injury by standing on an unguarded edge.  
  • Use a suitable, secure step ladder when putting up decorations, rather than standing on tables and chairs. Opus has investigated too many fall-from-height accidents that involve accidents while putting up Christmas decorations!
  • Make decorating your branch a team effort. Don’t allow individuals to tackle jobs alone, particularly if they involve climbing or ladder use .Instead, train workers to look out for each other’s safety and follow best practice at all times.
  • Don’t lose focus in the New Year rush. Remember to follow safe working at height practices when taking decorations down in January.

Workplace transport  

Poor visibility, snow and ice increase the chances of a collision on your site. Whether your workers are operating a forklift or an HGV, ensure they’re up to speed with extra precautions required throughout winter.

  • Remind drivers and forklift operators to report slippery areas immediately.
  • Remember that stopping distances are increased on snow and ice, so instruct drivers to factor in additional braking time.
  • If driving in adverse weather is essential, make sure vehicles are fit for the road. Pre-journey checks should include tyre pressure and condition, fuel levels, wipers, lights and defrosters. Drivers should also have de-icer or an ice scraper to hand.  

Get personalised winter safety advice  

Check if your branch is winterproof with a quick call to an Opus consultant. We’ll run through your current safety measures and identify gaps that could lead to accidents and compliance breaches – as well as practical solutions to prevent them.

Get in touch on or 0330 043 4015.