Get Ready for Bad Weather

The winter months are always a concern to businesses, working with our partners at BLM Solicitors and Aviva we have pulled together the following tips and advice to help keep you, your staff, parents & children safe in bad weather.

Avoiding Slips & Trips

Slips and trips are the single-largest cause of accidents in both public areas and workplaces. Everyone is aware that bad weather will arrive at some stage in the year. A nursery has a duty to assess and manage this foreseeable risk. (The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is specific in that, amongst other things, you have a duty of care to provide a safe place of work for your employees and others including safe access to and exit from it).

Over the years, we have managed a number claims relating to either employees or parents slipping on icy paths.  As always, it is best to prepare policies and procedures in advance which include the completion of risk assessments. Following an accident, the insurers’ decision regarding whether the nursery is liable can often revolve around the quality of documentation available after the event.

Areas to consider are:

  • Pathways & Carparks – should they be gritted during bad weather? 

    • Snow and ice can descend unexpectedly overnight and you need to have decided what must happen when the first person arrives.
    • Pathways can be gritted if it is safe to do so. A  procedure must be in place that everyone understands. Sometimes, it is impractical to remove snow and ice from every path, so identify and address the essential routes. You need to communicate this to visitors and staff by way of signs and barriers.
    • Give staff enough time to grit car parks and paths. Ensure they are trained or allocate resource for external contractors if this is more cost-effective.
    • If you share car parks or paths with other companies, make sure you agree the boundaries. Partly gritting your neighbouring property can create an impression that these areas have all been made safe and you could be implicated in creating a greater risk.
  • Outdoor Lighting 

    • Is there is enough lighting to be able to see and avoid hazards that might be on the ground?
  • Outdoor play

    • You should assess the outdoor play areas on a daily basis to take into account the change in weather conditions.
  • Staff footwear

    • Staff must be advised to wear suitable footwear and although this may seem obvious, we can assure you that claims have been won or lost because of the type of shoes an employee decided to wear. Did you know there is a GRIP rating for shoes? You can find out more here.

Inside the building

Inside the building can be an issue in bad weather too. Areas to consider:

  • Additional Heating 

    • Sometimes the heating fails to work or can be inadequate, so if you need to use additional heaters remember they carry risks of injury or fire.
      • Fire risks can be managed by making sure that portable heaters are never switched on and then left unattended whilst the nursery is closed.
      • Care must be taken to ensure that no radiator or exposed pipework with a surface temperature exceeding 43°C can be touched by a child.
    • Don’t forget you need to review your risk assessments regarding any temporary changes.
  • Heating pipes

    • Pipes can freeze during bad weather and periods of falling temperatures. In this situation, problems occur during the thaw when the damaged pipes burst to allow water to escape. Although the insulation of your pipes will help protect them, programming your heating to automatically turn on if the temperature falls too much is a sensible precaution.
    • Another option is to leave the heating on at a constant low temperature even when the nursery is closed.
  • Decorations & Parties

    • Make sure your festive decor doesn’t block any of the safety measures you have in place in your setting.
    • Aviva has created a handy Risk Assessment checklist to help you get it right. The checklist also encourages you to think about the impact Christmas parties can have. Download the checklist here. 
  • Internal areas

    These can also become slippery after bad weather as ice and snow are walked into the building.

    • Non-slip mats and parental provision of indoor and outdoor footwear for the children offer solutions to you.  However, if pools of water form then these need to be cordoned off or removed at regular intervals.
  • Empty properties

    • When nursery is empty it is especially vulnerable to damage. Before you close for your Christmas break, make sure all your keyholders are aware of what to do in the event of an emergency.
    • Staff should know the location of the stoptap and fuse boxes as well as all relevant telephone numbers.
    • If a water leak occurs don’t forget to check the electrics have not been damaged.

Looking after your buildings

  • Snow is heavier than you may realise.

    • It’s important to consider how heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures and strong wind chills might affect your buildings. For example, a 1cm-thick, 10m-square area of freshly fallen snow at 4˚C weighs around 100kg. As with most other things prevention is better than cure. Regular and systematic building inspections are a key part of any maintenance programme in order to help identify problems promptly.
  • Get some help if you need it

    • Early remedial action by a competent person is essential to reduce further, more costly, damage. It may be necessary to engage a competent person with the appropriate skills and equipment to carry out inspections in certain areas e.g. roofs.
    • If you are looking for someone to help with this you can access a network of professionals in your area through our partnership with the National Federation of Builders, email to request your login to the NFB/dot2dot portal and instruction how to use it, so that you can find someone in your area.
  • Drains are vital

    • Blocked or damaged rainwater removal systems will allow damage to the building fabric. They may also prevent water from being drained away from the property and in freezing temperatures, this can result in ice dams forming.
    • Make sure your maintenance team is regularly inspecting gutters etc to ensure they are clear of debris and that water can flow freely. When clearing snow from play areas and outside areas, don’t deposit it at the foot of any downspouts as this may interfere with effective drainage.