Car Park Safety During Winter
Workplace regulations covering the health, safety and welfare of employees are extensive. Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their members of staff; that includes external as well as internal areas of premises. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that vehicles at places of work continue to be a cause of fatal and serious injuries, so it’s imperative that employers familiarise themselves with the Executive’s requirements and put in place an efficient car park management plan to prevent accidents and injury to employees.
Car park safety is often overlooked, particularly during the winter months when benign conditions disappear and hazards arise due to changes in the weather. Data indicates that most falls, slips and trips in car parks are caused by objects obstructing walkways and that uneven surfaces present a significant hazard. So, what steps can you, as an employer, take to reduce the risk of your members of staff having an accident in the business car park, particularly during the winter months?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure the car park is safe to use. That means anything that might compromise the safety of the surface is cleared away, particularly during the autumn and winter months. Obstacles often include wet leaves, fallen twigs and branches, excessive amounts of rainwater, slippery ice or deep snow. Car parks and traffic routes should provide good grip: surfaces should be roughened if they are too smooth and gritted or sanded if they are slippery. They must be kept free of grease, rubbish, oil and other debris. Sloping surfaces may require extra grip, and potholes should be filled promptly.
When you conduct your annual risk assessment for your premises, do you include considerations of how safe your car park is in adverse weather conditions? Do you take account of any additional risks posed to safety in the car park by the winter months? If not, you are leaving yourself, your employees and visitors at risk of accident and your business exposed to expensive damages claims.
Fallen leaves and excessive rain
Fallen leaves that are wet or have started to decay can create risks of people falling or slipping in two ways:
- The surface is slippery and can be as hazardous as ice.
- They can hide any danger that may be on the path, such as an uneven surface or an obstruction.
Excessive rain can play havoc with surfaces, so make sure your pathways are in the right place in terms of practical access to the premises. If your site is prone to flooding, you should introduce effective flood barriers as well as post warning signs. Consider installing canopies over the entrances to your buildings to help reduce the dangers of slips when people walk in water and then tread it into the building.
Fallen twigs and branches
Small, thin twigs are often trodden underfoot and do not normally present a problem; however, larger, thicker branches or exposed tree roots can cause pedestrians to trip. They can also damage vehicle tyres if they are obstructing parking places or the entrance and exit to the car park. Make sure all debris is cleared away on a regular basis, particularly after heavy rain or very windy weather.
Ice and snow
You must identify the hazards associated with snow and ice as part of your site risk assessment. Then you need to take steps to ensure they are minimised, through clearing or gritting, for example. You need only grit or clear those parts of your site that provide essential access to designated areas. However, don’t forget sloping surfaces that may become slippery under wet leaves, flowing or standing water or ice. Gritting is relatively cheap, quick and easy to carry out. Commonly rock salt is used, as it can melt existing snow and ice and prevent new ice from forming on surfaces.
Slowing down vehicles
It’s important to consider the precautions you can take in external areas in advance of deteriorating weather. For example, it’s a good idea to erect signs indicating a reduction in speed in car parks before autumn and winter begin. You could also introduce speed bumps to parking areas in order to force vehicles to slow down to safer speeds.
Solutions for a safer car park
There are things you can do to make sure your business car parking areas are and remain safe, whatever the weather:
- At the outset, choose surfaces for pathways that you know will be slip resistant when wet.
- If employees tend to take shortcuts over grassed areas, be sure to discourage this behaviour, as exposed mud caused by this practice will become slippery. Alternatively, turn the routes into official paths and treat them accordingly.
- Monitor exterior temperatures and make sure the car park is gritted before cold weather or predicted freezing weather begins.
- Organise for fallen leaves, twigs and branches to be removed at regular intervals; perhaps consider the benefits of removing altogether or replacing the bushes or trees that drop their leaves.
- Use anti slip mats in entrance halls and inside all external doors to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
- Ensure that lighting outdoors is sufficient for the darker days during the winter months.
- Post signs indicating that slower speeds are needed on the site when the weather is poor. Calming traffic speed is a simple way to reduce one of the dangers that can cause the most damage.
- Take steps to reduce the risk of flooding in your car park.
- Maintain paths and car park surfaces to make sure there are no potholes or adverse cambers that could cause accidents and harm pedestrians or damage vehicles.
- Prioritise areas that provide essential access for employees, visitors, tenants or residents, such as external pathways and entrances to car parks, communal areas and waste disposal sites.
- Ensure signs are noticeable and easy to understand: keep them clean and remember to light them if they need to be seen when it’s dark.