CLOSURE OF ESTABLISHMENTS DUE TO SNOW
Every year many establishments are faced with the difficult decision of
whether or not to close during periods of snowfall. The decisions are
often accompanied by adverse publicity or complaint. Equally other
establishments due to the nature of their operation have to remain open.
The following guidance aims to address both of these situations.
Whilst it goes without saying that every effort should be made to keep
establishments open during periods of snowfall the following advice
indicates the health and safety issues you will need to consider if there
is significant snowfall.
1. Will sufficient staff be able to reach the establishment to ensure
pupils/service users can be adequately and safety supervised? This
will depend on such factors as location of the school / establishment
and where staff live in relation to it. Availability of public transport,
state of roads to/from sites.
2. Can safe access routes to and from the establishment’s gate(s) to
entrances be maintained e.g. do you have sufficient staff to clear
routes and grit them as necessary.
If the answer to either of the above is no then the establishment should
not be opened as the safety of pupils/service users and staff cannot be
Whilst Safety on the public highways is not the responsibility of the
school / establishment this may well play a part in the decision on
whether or not to open. It is certainly likely to play a part in any decision
on whether to close early if snow should start to fall heavily, especially
when coupled with up-to-date weather reports. As travel on the public
highway is discouraged unless essential during periods of heavy
snowfall schools / establishments who’s pupils / service users
predominantly have to travel a significant distance to attend the
establishment may choose not to open or close early during such
weather. This is unlikely to be as much of an issue for
schools/establishments whose pupils/service users and staff
predominantly live within walking distance.
General Winter Precautions for Establishments When Not Closing or Who Cannot Close.
There is a statutory duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure safe access and egress routes to, from and around the premises for staff, pupils/service users and visitors. The following precautions (or a combination of some of them as appropriate to your circumstances) will help you to meet this duty.
1. Ensure you have a suitable supply of grit/salt on the premises to deal with the areas you need to grit during icy/snowy weather. Where possible store the grit/salt as close as you can to the area where it is to be used.
2. Ensure you have a plan and suitable risk assessment detailing which areas are to be cleared/gritted based on the risk of people slipping/falling. This will need to pay particular attention to areas at most risk. At least one designated access/egress route should be gritted (and re-gritted throughout the day as necessary). Time for gritting should be considered as gritting will need to take place before people arrive and before times of regular usage throughout day as necessary.
3. Ensure that all users of the establishment are aware of which the designated gritted/cleared routes are and take measures to prevent them using non-gritted routes (signs/barriers/locking gates etc)
4. Ensure you have people designated to carry out the gritting/clearing and that they have appropriate equipment; personal protective equipment, boots, gloves, coats etc, training and sufficient time to carry this out. They should be fully familiar with all the risk assessments relevant to this work, and be given suitable instruction on how to carry out the work, including use of equipment.
5. A manual handling assessment will need to be carried out for the gritting operation.
6. Car parking areas should be gritted. The level of gritting will depend on the size, shape and layout including steepness of the car park.
For example, a sloping car park may need to be fully gritted, a flat car park may only require the access routes (not individual bays) gritted. This will be a decision for individual establishments to make.
7. If for logistical reasons it is decided car parks cannot be gritted then they should be closed until such time as they can be gritted or can be made safe, and access to the car park should be prevented by barriers, signs or if possible locking the gates to the car park.
8. Access to other areas which have not been gritted/cleared should be restricted (it is not sensible to grit playgrounds and so in icy conditions access to playgrounds should be restricted). It may be appropriate to let pupils out to play in playgrounds covered in fresh snow as long as it is not icy underneath and pupils have on appropriate footwear and over clothing, and are suitably supervised.
9. Staff should be encouraged to wear appropriate footwear during icy/snowy conditions.
Schools/establishments are also reminded that there is a generic risk assessment for adverse weather which they should be aware of an have adopted/adapted to their establishment.
If schools/establishments are in any doubt about any issue relating to adverse weather they should in the first instance contact their area health and safety advisor.
Other useful information
Emergency closure procedures for schools
Severe weather – steps you can take to help prevent damage to your school by frost.