The 1st of December marked the first day of meteorological winter, but some of us have been feeling the effects for several weeks already. As temperatures drop below freezing our winter coats have been dragged out from the back of the cupboard; our shoes and boots will soon bear the glamorous white salt lines from the grit covering our roads and pavements and we now have Storm Atiyah to contend with as well.

However, it is not just for local councils to consider the conditions underfoot. As an employer you have a duty to assess and minimise the risks posed to your employees by winter weather conditions, whether employees are on property owned or controlled by you, or are working elsewhere.

An obvious example may be a private car park servicing your place of work, and the attached paths and pavements, between buildings (as in the recent case of Sharp v Scottish Ministers). A less obvious example perhaps, was that raised in the case of Kennedy v Cordia where it was held that an employee conducting home visits in the course of their employment, walking on private paths and pavements under the control of someone else, should have been provided with protective footwear.

Some things you should consider:

  • Have you conducted an adequate risk assessment which identifies the risks to your employees posed by winter conditions; does it cover all of your employees' travel commitments, any outdoor activities and the environments in which those are carried out? In particular here, does the risk assessment take account of the risks posed by weather at different times of year? Or the risk of a sudden change in weather conditions?
  • Have you taken all reasonable steps to minimise the risks posed by winter conditions? It is not always enough to assume that someone else will carry out the necessary winter maintenance tasks.
  • Do your employees know what steps they should take in treacherous weather? Do you issue a winter weather policy each year?
  • Is any additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for a certain task or role? Could you provide or advise your employees of the need to wear winter appropriate footwear?
  • Do you have an incident reporting procedure; with an appropriate follow up plan? If someone slips first thing in the morning, are there procedures in place to prevent the accident happening again?

With robust and comprehensive winter weather procedures and practices you will reduce the likelihood of an employee suffering injury this winter; and reduce the potential risk to your business posed by such accidents.


Ellen Andrew