This October has been one of the wettest on record in the UK. In fact, climate change appears to be making our autumns and winters far more wet than previously. This is causing a problem in certain industries, such as construction and agriculture.
Site vehicles and plant are distributing mud and grit onto the public roads. In many places, mud is becoming a nuisance. Add to this the issue of poor drainage, and many sites can very easily become quagmires.
The more it rains, the more of a hazard and a nuisance mud becomes.
Mud can cause a road hazard for the public on our highways. It can cause motorists to lose control and skid. It can cause even more problems for cyclists.
Stones within the mud can be kicked up, damaging windows and windscreens. Mud blocks gullies and drains, leading to flooding.
When it dries, mud creates dust. It is also a visual nuisance to many people, raising tensions between site operatives and local communities.
Whereas the well known song claims that "Mud, mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood", in reality it can be the exact opposite.
On site, there are some ways of limiting the problem - improved drainage, temporary road structures, limiting plant movement. But it is on the roads that the law can come down hard on you, if you are not careful.
The Highways Act 1980 makes it illegal to obstruct the free passage along a highway, or to deposit anything on a public road that can interrupt the journey of a road user. It states that "if anything is deposited on the highway so as to constitute a nuisance / danger" the person depositing it must remove it immediately, because if anyone "deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered", they are guilty of an offence. Under the Road Traffic Act 1888, it is also an offence to drive a vehicle dangerously on a road where driving that vehicle is in such a state that it causes a danger to others.
If your workplace can lead to mud being deposited or flowing onto a public road, it is recommended that:
For short distances (e.g. from one farmers field to another nearby), you keep to low speeds to help retain mud on the vehicle;
You clean mud from vehicles as much as possible before they are taken onto the road;
You add signage to the road, including "Mud on Road" or "Slippery Surface";
You clean the road and site roads as necessary during the working day, and at the end of the day, ideally using a road sweeper.
The Health and Safety Executive class mud as a public nuisance. Their website (https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/faq-publicnuisance.htm) states:
"The contractor in charge of the site should make sure mud cannot get into public areas; and should arrange for the road/s to be cleaned if it does.
"If you think mud or debris from a construction site is making the road dangerous, and the contractor does not seem to be taking action, tell the police as they may need to close the road while it is cleaned. The local authority or county council Highways Department may also be able to assist if the problem occurs on a road that they are responsible for. Their website will have details of how to contact them, and their phone number will be in the phone book.
"HSE does not have responsibility for these issues, but will take details of your complaint as we may need to find out why the contractor allowed this to happen."
This article is part of our Four Seasons of Health and Safety campaign.