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Leaves - the autumn friend or foe


It's autumn and one thing can be guaranteed. Leaves will change colour and eventually fall to the ground.


I love autumn. I love the colours of the trees as they change from the green of summer to a natural festival of browns, oranges, reds and yellows. Watching this is good for the spirit, and for mental health. And when they fall, nothing can beat taking a walk and kicking a pile of dried leaves. Okay that may just be me, but autumn is one of nature's gifts.


However for many businesses it can be a nightmare.


The obvious one is the annual issue of delayed and cancelled trains caused by leaves on the line. Wet and windy autumnal weather blows moist leaves on top of the rails, where they stick and render the track hazardous. Those in the rail industry call the problem 'low rail adhesion', and it leads to wheels slipping and sliding when braking or accelerating. In addition, the signals use electric currents in the track to locate trains, which becomes less accurate if there are leaves on the line.


But it isn't just on the railways. Leaves can block drains and can cause floods around business premises.


If there are areas of heavy fall, particularly on paths, they mulch together and become extremely slippery. If a path used by the public is on your property, you have a legal obligation to protect the public on that path. If the leaves are not cleared, and someone slips, then you may be at fault.


The paths always forgotten are routes from rear fire exit doors. In an emergency evacuation, the last thing you need is people slipping and sliding their way to the assembly point.


The Health and Safety Executive advise businesses to put in procedures for removing leaves at regular intervals.


We all want trees. We need trees. We love the autumn colours they bring. But with that, remember that once they fall, they can cause health and safety issues if not managed. As the leaves start to fall this autumn, remember to keep people safe and keep your paths and drains clear.


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