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Riding Safely

Safety Tip - November/December 2004

November/December 2004
Do your risk assessments reflect seasonal variations?

It's a good time to check whether your risk assessments take into account the different seasonal weather conditions.  Recently we've seen cold weather and freezing conditions which could be with us again soon. The likelihood is that anyone running a yard will have built up the experience and take practical measures to control the additional risks posed by cold weather. But do your risk assessments record the additional factors of cold weather? Are they written down?

When undertaking risk assessments for the first time try to think about the hazards that may be present during all the seasons, not just those at the time when you undertake the risk assessment. Additionally, it's sensible during the first year of your risk assessments to review them during winter and summer (as a minimum, but preferably also during spring and autumn) to ensure that you've identified all the hazards and can control any significant risks.

As an example, there are many tasks that use water on the yard. If you conduct a risk assessment in summer you might consider that the hazards associated with the use of water in those tasks are minimal. You might decide that there are no significant risks and therefore you might decide no further action or written risk assessment is required. Now consider those same tasks that use water on yards in freezing wintry conditions and it's pretty obvious that we are faced with a completely different set of circumstances. Those tasks for which there were no significant risks in summer suddenly have quite significant risks associated with the hazard of water freezing and becoming ice. If you are an employer and there is a significant risk which affects five or more people than there is a legal requirement for you to record the significant findings of your risk assessment and communicate those findings who make the affected by the risk. So in summer there is no significant risk, but as you can see it is quite different in winter.

Remember that the risk and control measures will depend on many factors such as the size, nature and location of the yard - every case has to be assessed on its individual circumstances.

With possible freezing temperatures, do remember to:

  • lag/insulate vulnerable water pipes
  • know how to turn to turn off the water in the event of an emergency - e.g. burst pipe
  • consider reducing the number of taps in use, particularly those in locations that could cause a major problem
  • label taps out of use and communicate the reason to everyone
  • have a supply of salt available in the event that the precautions you've taken fail and you still end up with unwanted ice! (It's worth checking to see if you can buy salt from your local council. Some councils sell bags of salt at cost price of 1.30 for 5kg or 6.30 for 25kg.)

Is all of this just another paper bureaucratic exercise? You decide. Consider the following scenario....

  • You haven't conducted a risk assessment
  • A water pipe bursts resulting in huge amounts of water which freezes on the yard.
  • The yard becomes a skating rink.
  • You don't have any salt to melt the ice
  • No one knows how or where to turn off the water. The yard is on a water meter so apart from the ice problem there is a possibility that you could be charged for the leaking water. Even if you aren't it would properly result in time and trouble trying to sort the issue out.
  • A member of staff slips on the ice and hurts a leg
  • Taken to hospital the leg is confirmed as "broken"
  • apart from the pain and suffering of the individual, morale may be affected and replacement help might be needed at additional cost.
  • The accident would have to be reported to the Health & Safety Executive under the RIDDOR regulations.
  • You could end up with both criminal and civil prosecutions being brought against you.
  • A fine from a criminal prosecution might be enough to put you out of business, and even if not prosecuted criminally, a civil prosecution could dramatically increase your insurance costs.

In practice you probably control the risk of ice on the yard already. If you haven't done it already, It's not going to taking much longer to formally record what you already do in practice and make sure that you've told everyone of the measures that you've taken. It's a lot easier than having an accident.........

This is an just one example, remember to review all of your risk assessment to make sure that they take account of  seasonal variations.  You may find that you need additional risk assessments.

See also:

Surviving winter (Horse and Hound Online January 29, 2004)

Keeping warm this winter (Horse and Hound Online January 12, 2005)

The risk assessment section of Riding Safely

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