The Beast from the East: Health and safety issues during extreme weather conditions

February 28th 2018

As the Beast from the East takes hold this week, those involved with looking after horses will be particularly busy. But as well as extra work, adverse weather conditions bring additional risks.

Safety should be the primary consideration at all times but there are specific Health and Safety issues relating to snowy and icy conditions which everyone, particularly those responsible for employees, should bear in mind.

Managing horses during extended periods of cold weather presents specific challenges. Water supplies in particular need to be managed, ensuring that horses have constant access. Excessively cold water and frozen grass can induce colic so turnout may not be advisable. In these circumstances, stabling is often the best option but hard feed will need to be reduced while hay and water supplies are maintained.

Yards which routinely use machinery will need to assess the risks presented by ice and snow and take steps to safeguard their staff and equipment. If feasible, gritting the area around the yard is a sensible precaution.

If turnout is an option then extreme care should be taken to ensure the safety of both horses and people. Icy paths or the balling of snow balling up in the hooves increases the risk of slipping or falling and this is likely to be increased if horses are excited to be getting out after a few days inside. If grit is available this will significantly reduce the risks and a plan for clearing of paths and roadways out to fields, or other ways of making them safer, is advisable.

A management plan for extreme weather conditions should be part of every Health and Safety policy.

Anna Goodley 3

Anna Goodley

Associate Director

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