Avoiding winter slip ups
29 November 2019
Vicky Lopez, co-founder and director at De-ice, examines how to make sure you stay open for business when the cold weather strikes
Winter has officially arrived! For many of us that may seem a daunting prospect but it’s never too late to protect your premises and make sure you stay open for business – no matter what the weather brings. Staff and visitors need to know they can work safely during adverse conditions, and that operations can continue to run smoothly.
If you think you’re behind on planning for winter and it all seems too much, don’t panic! There are simple steps and advice facilities managers can follow that will get you started with winter maintenance preparation and help to establish good practice for winters to come.
While we recommend people making contact with winter maintenance providers and start putting plans into place during the spring, if you haven’t already then your first step should be to make an assessment of your site needs. This should be done immediately, but it does not need to be a huge undertaking, especially for those on smaller sites and facilities.
Assess and review for accessibility and safety all entrances and exits, as well as parking areas that you are responsible for. Consider how visitors and staff will access buildings and travel around the site during periods of potential snow and ice. You need to have safety in mind at all times – exposure to risk needs to be minimised.
Once an assessment has been done, then review with your team or business how you will deal with adverse weather. Evaluate how much grit you will need to treat ‘at-risk’ areas, and how and when they will be treated.
You may think you are able to manage the site during bad weather with current staff. Indeed this may be an option, but for many facilities having a partner in winter has a range of benefits, and is often essential to meet health and safety requirements. At this stage, consider making contact with winter maintenance providers – exploring all relevant options.
Remember if someone trips or is hurt on your site you may be liable. Having a secure winter maintenance plan in place means you will have the evidence to show you took due care to protect those on your site. Additionally, staying open during bad weather ensures your reputation as a facility or business as reliable and can give you a real advantage - particularly if nearby businesses or even competitors have had to close.
Delegate and communicate
If you’ve decided to manage the effects of snow and ice within your company make clearly delegated plans of who is responsible and when gritting will take place.
Ensure signage is prepared to show visitors and staff routes to take when the ground is icy and make sure these are properly gritted whenever and wherever necessary. Let employees know your winter policy and the method by which you will let them know of any cancelled work days due to severe bad weather. For example, you may let them know they will receive an email before 7am on the day, or perhaps you can let staff work from home if their routes to work are treacherous.
The ultimate goal of a winter maintenance programme is to minimise disruption, whilst ensuring site safety. To do this efficiently and effectively can mean outsourcing gritting and snow clearance to an outside company. If this is the route you have decided to take than you’ll need to make contact with companies to understand their approach and offering to see if it suits your needs. Make sure any partner you choose to work with fully appreciates your business and site requirements.
Choosing a winter maintenance provider
Finding a winter maintenance provider does require some consideration and whilst it may be tempting to go for the cheapest or first option, especially when planning late, this may result in a complete waste of valuable budget if your chosen provider doesn’t deliver the right service or consider your unique needs.
High-quality services mean your business or facility are properly covered and protected from the adverse affects of snow and ice. Gritting is more of a bespoke service than many imagine. It’s not just about putting salt on the ground when it’s cold. Sometimes there are better materials for treating surfaces and only an experienced provider can guide you on that. Protecting facilities from snow and ice requires real knowledge about various elements of the site, from the topography and access points, to the number of entrances and car parks that need to be cleared. As well as the relevant trigger points for service, which vary from site to site. It is important to remember that all sites are different and businesses have varying needs.
When choosing a provider you should consider the following:
- Do they communicate clearly and respond quickly to queries?
- Are they interested to assess your site and specific gritting and snow clearance needs?
- What technology and forecasting do they use?
- Are their workers skilled and dedicated to the job?
- Can they show good working practice?
- Do they have clear audit trails?
- Will your winter maintenance plan be customised for individual facilities needs?
Remember for next year to begin your winter partnership journey as early as possible, but for now don’t panic and get started on the steps above to protect yourself from the physical, financial and reputational damage that can arise from bad weather.