How to prepare your school for snow and ice

We all remember those days as a child when you would look out of the window on a morning and be filled with excitement at the sight of snow.

However, snowy conditions present a range of Health & Safety challenges for school leaders.

Here are some ways that you can proactively prepare your school for snow and ice:

Closing your school

In the event of severe snow, decide if your school will open as early as you possibly can (before 7:AM is advisable) and consider how you will inform pupils, parents and employees.

Effective communication methods include updating your school’s website and social media channels, sending out text messages and emails, and informing local radio stations and media outlets.

When deciding whether to open your school, you should consider:

  • Where employees and pupils live and the journey they will have to make to and from school;
  • If school transport and public transport companies are operating as normal;
  • Expected staffing ratios, to ensure pupils are safely supervised;
  • How weather conditions are likely to change throughout the day;
  • If your school has enough maintenance materials, fuel stock, and gritting equipment and stock
  • The safety of pedestrian routes on your school’s site.

Gritting

Gritting material and suitable equipment should be bought well in advance of cold and ice conditions, with enough supplies stocked at any one time for at least five days’ use.

It is important that gritting material is stored in a salt or grit bin and everyone knows where to find it.  You should also clearly communicate to employees who is responsible for gritting, and when it will take place i.e. early morning, and late afternoons.

Areas that are prone to being slippy (e.g. car parks, access roads, pedestrian paths and playgrounds) should be identified, monitored and proactively gritted when necessary.

First aid training

Icy conditions increase the risk of slips, trips and falls, reinforcing the importance of having employees on site that are first aid trained.

To make sure your school is fully protected (even in the event of absences or employees being unavailable), it might be necessary for some employees to undertake first aid training to increase your school’s first aid provisions.

Heating and water provision

During cold periods, it is essential that plumbing and heating facilities are working properly.

Ongoing questions that you should be asking yourself include:

  • Is there constant low heating throughout known cold periods to prevent the freezing of pipes?
  • Are your caretakers carrying out regular checks of heating and water systems to ensure that they are working as expected?
  • Is there a written record of previous failures, faults and remedial actions?
  • Are you checking that surface water drains are flowing freely so that areas where water might flood do not turn into a mini ice rink?
  • Do you have enough fuel stock to appropriately heat your school?

Plan possible adaptations

Be prepared to adapt your school’s daily rules, routines and schedules.

There is no ‘one rule fits all’ when it comes to what these adaptations should be, but you might consider relaxing dress codes to ensure that pupils are warm and comfortable, restrict outdoor play activities, or make alternative plans for outdoor Physical Education classes.

Use your common sense when making decisions, as snow does not need to grind your school to a halt but should prompt you to consider potential hazards and necessary control measures.

Have a snow and ice policy

Your school’s snow and ice policy will outline all the procedures that should be followed in the event of snow and ice and should be communicated to all employees, clearly outlining everyone’s responsibilities.

This can be also be communicated to parents so that they know what steps you will take to guarantee pupil safety.

Though this will be tailored to your school, general features should include:

  • The policy’s aims and objectives, including your commitment to making all reasonable efforts to keep your school open and what procedures will be followed when considering school closure;
  • Responsibilities of different individuals, e.g. the Governing Body, headteacher, business manager, finance manager, caretaker and premises employees, and all other employees (note that it is also worth considering the role and responsibilities of contractors);
  • Clearance procedures;
  • Map of your school, including priority areas for gritting;
  • Risk assessments including hazards, those affected, risks and controls.

Citation can help

With more than 100 school-specific risk assessment templates available to clients, Citation can help you prepare your school for snow and ice.

From supporting you to put in place Health & Safety policies to giving you advice on accident reporting, you will have around-the-clock access to their experts through their 24/7 advice line to ask any questions that you might have, however big or small.

If you have any questions on anything covered in this article, please contact Citation’s expert team on 0345 844 1111 or by emailing epm@citation.co.uk.

Read more about how Citation can help to keep your school, academy or trust safe.

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