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Preparing your business for harsh weather

A number of articles have appeared in the press saying this winter will be the coldest for years, yet research published by the BIFM and GRITIT revealed that more than 30 per cent of organisations fail to plan for the winter period. What provisions should FMs make to prepare for bad weather, from practical solutions such as gritting to the development of a winter workplace strategy?  


Our research with the BIFM showed that more than 30 per cent of facilities managers are failing to plan for the winter period, and of those that do plan ahead, 85 per cent are not planning to do anything differently than in 2012, when UK Plc clocked up a £318 million bill as a result of business closures due to snow.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers have a Duty of Care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, including the provision of a safe working environment. This Duty of Care also extends beyond staff to anyone visiting, or passing by the facility, including suppliers on company business and members of the public. As a result every organisation must be able to demonstrate that they have done everything reasonable to meet these obligations to make sites safe for staff and customers.

The Best Practice Guide advocates the following implementation steps for FMs:

  • Ensure your winter safety procedures are integrated into a recognisable health and safety management system such as OHSAS18001 or HS(G)65 Successful Health and Safety Management.
  • Develop a winter maintenance plan around detailed surveys and site specifications that identify hazardous areas. Create bespoke clearance and gritting instructions for each site including risk assessments and method statements.
  • Have a clearly defined process and responsibilities with allocated overall responsibility for overseeing the plan and specific tasks assigned to individuals. A senior ‘champion’ is also important to ensure high-level management buy-in.
  • Set clearly defined KPIs to measure performance against and a process to review the plan and any KPIs on a regular basis. We recommend that the overall plan should be formally reviewed at the start and end of the winter season in October and April.
  • Create a process for documenting the proactive actions, incidents and investigations undertaken. Make sure that records are maintained and kept for a minimum of three years.
  • Secure adequate resources: It is important to ensure the procurement and maintenance of supplies of clearance equipment, salt and grit bins that are adequate to last through a harsh winter. You also need a dedicated and trained team that have sufficient and well-maintained Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have plans to regularly maintain winter vehicles and equipment.
  • Communicate: Beyond those directly involved, it is important to communicate safe operating procedures to all staff. Equally, share your plans with insurers or brokers. This can ensure you have fulfilled the requirements of their policy and can also have a positive impact on premiums. More than half of respondents we had surveyed admitted failing to consult their insurer.

Our research showed that almost 40 per cent of FMs reported two or more ‘slip and trip incidents’ in the previous winter and ‘slipping on ice’ accidents have the potential for the most high-value claims and compensation. Whether you elect to handling gritting in house or through a contractor, implementing best practice begins with effective planning. A robust winter maintenance plan that is embedded into your organisation’s health and safety policies can help you meet your Duty of Care and meet the expectation of insurers, while reducing risks and helping your resilience by ensuring business continuity. 


Whilst forecasters predict this winter to be the UK’s coldest in years, not everyone is waiting for the first flake to fall with the eager anticipation of schoolchildren. Many businesses see an impending cold snap as a threat to their operations, yet a study by BIFM found that more than 30 per cent of organisations fail to plan ahead for the winter period.

That seems more crackers than a Christmas nut to me. While others may have spent their summer sipping on Pina Coladas by the pool, my team and I spent the summer months focusing on frost.

But when it comes to choosing a winter services partner, not all companies offer the same service. There is no nationally recognised accreditation for gritting contractors, so it pays to do your research. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together a few tips for planning your own winter workplace strategy.

Winter where art thou? I’m not a fan of guessing games, especially when it comes to cold weather, which is where investing in a reliable forecasting tool pays dividends. It’s one of the biggest investments a gritting provider can make but it’s top of the tree important as it can mean the difference between clients being caught out by an unexpected temperature drop and paying for an unneeded service. No one wants either scenario. The gold standard is to use Road Surface Temperature (RST) forecasting but it doesn’t come cheap. Be wary of providers who cut costs by opting for more affordable, publicly available forecasting information which doesn’t compare.

Protect yourself from blame or a claim; When cold weather brings icy surfaces, there is always the danger someone may fall and injure themselves. If this happens, you might find you have a personal injury claim on your hands. Check your gritters T’s & C’s don’t leave you out in the cold as some contractors may limit their liability to the duration of their visit, which offers very little protection. True partners are prepared to take a hands-on role in the event of personal injury claims, giving you much needed support.

Ensure your tech isn’t from the ice age; Advances in technology such as satellite vehicle tracking and cloud-based 4G remote communication mean that the industry has become highly technical. Clients want to work smart and expect instant and comprehensive management information to help them manage their winter workplaces. This season, Mitie launched an all-new smartphone app ‘Go-Grit’, giving our clients immediate insight into their gritting strategy.

Get ahead to bag a bargain; While it may seem strange to be thinking about the chance of snow during a heatwave; summer is when gritting companies start ordering their salt and equipment, potentially offering you the opportunity to bag the best deal. By waiting until the weather changes you can find yourself paying substantially more, or worse still, not able to find a supplier who has the capacity to take on the job. Get it sorted early and save yourself the worry. 

About Sarah OBeirne

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