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Grounds for improvement

Stepping back and looking at the big picture is central to successfully addressing risks and seizing opportunities. For example, in advance of the summer peak season it’s a good idea to invest time in updating compliance folders, including staff training, risk assessments and records needed for compliance with regulations such as COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health).

Growing public awareness of the risks of glyphosate-based weed killers provides a powerful example of how the status quo is not always acceptable, as the future legality of these products hangs in the balance. It’s not only vital to ensure accurate and reliable records from a risk management perspective, but also to be able to plan and budget for the additional labour that might be needed should conventional options for weed control become unavailable in future.

Similarly, any planning process should keep in mind other risks, such as reportable invasive species like Japanese knotweed or giant hogweed (summer is an important time to monitor sites for these species and build control measures into new plans). For risks such as drought, it’s important to note that while there are signs of a hotter and more volatile climate, these haven’t yet developed to the point where installing irrigation systems makes financial sense. However, for some sites it may increasingly make sense to look at how best to harvest and recycle rainwater to help hedge against periods of dry weather.

From a more positive perspective, it’s also important to engage grounds maintenance teams to allow them to evaluate and advise on potential site improvements. For example, the summer months are when outdoor spaces are most heavily used, which provides an excellent opportunity to assess a site and consider what changes could add the most value.

This could reveal multifunctional improvements, such as aesthetic changes that drive greater use of outdoor space by employees or increase sustainability and encourage wildlife. A great example of this is converting a section of lawn to a wildflower meadow that adds visual interest and supports pollinators. As well as improving a site’s aesthetic appeal and environmental friendliness, this sort of feature can help save money by reducing the need for mowing lawns without compromising overall quality.

Facilities managers don’t need to be experts in grounds maintenance. However, they can become more effective in managing GM teams and contractors when equipped with a strategic mindset that takes into account seasonal pressures and opportunities.

About Sarah OBeirne


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