Leicester based winter maintenance firm GRITIT, has warned that businesses may be doing too little too late when it comes to protecting staff, visitors and the public this winter.
According to GRITIT, who provide gritting and snow clearance services to help keep businesses, hospitals, schools and retail outlets safe and open during extreme weather, those that offer little or no provision for winter gritting are heading for the perfect storm.
Despite forecasters predicting yet another harsh winter ahead for 2018/19, many businesses are still failing with their winter planning. This combined with a crack down from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and a significant increase in prosecutions for duty of care failure, could spell disaster.
GRITIT Director for the Midlands, Mick Crutchley, explains: “If you run a business or are responsible for employees, customers or visitors to a place of work, then you have a duty of care to keep sites safe during winter weather. Despite this, it’s likely that many people in this position may still not be fully aware of the extent of their responsibilities relating to clearing snow and ice.
“What many people may not be aware of is that the HSE is now driven by aggressive commercial targets, with a new tougher sentencing guideline. This shift in orientation has lead to a huge increase in the frequency and severity of fines, including cases where no actual injury has resulted.
“With fines regularly exceeding six figures, it is clear that the consequences of failing to take reasonable care could have a catastrophic impact on both the individuals deemed responsible and on the bottom line of the business.”
Failure to plan for these instances is compounded by a continued squeeze on council spending on road gritting. Last year, the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ reportedly cost the UK economy in the region of £1bn a day. As these “freak” weather occurrences are set to become more commonplace, Councils are being forced to review their spending and priorities on winter services.
This year Leicestershire County Council has a pre-winter stock of 14,500 tonnes of salt located at five depots around the county. Although their budgets are somewhat stretched they are committed to gritting some 45% of roads across the county, with their fleet of 17 grit spreaders already on standby for the season ahead.
However, while local councils do all they can to keep the transport network moving, businesses across the region need to be mindful of their own responsibilities and liabilities to manage risk when the cold weather arrives.