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Winter is coming

With summer now almost over FMJ hears from the specialists in the industry about what companies and businesses need to be doing to prepare for the colder months ahead


Jason Petsch, CEO of winter specialists GRITIT says: “Whether we’re soaking up the sun or sheltering under an umbrella from the rain, summer is a time that people tend to want to throw off the dark, cold winter days and to forget about the disruption that snow and ice can cause. And, when the British weather is so unpredictable, with the winter of 2015/16 going down in the record books as the third warmest since 1910, we tend to forget about past extreme conditions where exceptionally cold periods of severe frost and heavy snow have caused major disruption across the UK.

“However, leaving winter to chance can create significant risks for commercial and retail organisations, schools and universities, hospitals, manufacturers, and utility and transport businesses. An ad hoc approach is no longer adequate to support business confidence or continuity. All organisations must be able to demonstrate that they have done everything reasonably possible to meet their Duty of Care and that they have met all health and safety legislation, when it comes to making a site safe for staff and customers during harsh winter weather. Failing to do so can leave a company vulnerable to litigation, should they be found negligent if a slip, trip or fall on ice incident results in injury, may negatively affect its reputation and have a huge impact on the company’s bottom line.

“To optimally manage business risk during winter, a comprehensive and continually-developing maintenance plan should be supported at top level by embedding this into the organisation’s health and safety policy.

“The key elements that should be incorporated in a winter maintenance plan are:

  • ensuring that the plan is robust through a recognised health and safety management system such as OHSAS 18001
  • appointing a senior ‘champion’ of the plan so that this has appropriate importance within the organisation and has a high level of buy-in
  • defining overall responsibility for the plan
  • assigning specific tasks to individual team members
  • maintaining records showing the plan has been delivered and keep these for a minimum of three years
  • documenting the proactive winter management plan and service activity, fully investigate accidents and record all details
  • ensuring the plan is based on real time accurate weather data and agreed action triggers for service
  • carrying out detailed bespoke site surveys and specifications within identified hazardous areas
  • allocating adequate resources – a dedicated trained team, sufficient and well-maintained PPE
  • communicating the plan clearly so that everyone, from operators to staff and visitors, is aware of their specific responsibilities
  • measuring performance against clearly defined KPIs
  • reviewing plans and policies on a regular basis: at least bi-annually
  • sharing winter risk plans with the company’s broker/insurer

“To be at its most effective, winter maintenance should be an all-year-round job. The winter maintenance plan should be regularly reviewed and updated using up-to-date information, and drawing on recent experience from the winter just gone, to resolve any issues, explore new initiatives and allocate budget to improve the plan going forward for the coming winter.

“Precise weather information is also vital for helping to maintain facilities and keep people safe. As part of a robust winter maintenance service, a sophisticated level of meteorological data, based on area/localised forecasts from a specialist forecasting company, from a specialist forecasting company, can be used to reduce risk from reactive maintenance.

“A winter maintenance plan, with a robust gritting and snow clearance service that comes into operation, 24/7 and 365 days a year, as soon as the daily forecast for road surface temperatures fall to or below 0°C, provides reassurance that all reasonable activity is taking place to mitigate business risk and put safety at the top of the agenda.

“Designated entrances, walkways and car park areas should be a priority for a gritting and snow clearance service that must be solidly based on:

  • high quality, accurate weather forecast data and agreed action triggers for service
  • detailed bespoke site surveys and specifications with identified hazardous areas and specific gritting instructions

“It is important that businesses plan ahead to ensure the winter months receive an allocation of annual budget for seasonal risk management. It is virtually impossible to ensure that a property is completely risk free but a robust winter maintenance plan, along with the latest knowledge and innovation and a quality service delivered by highly trained staff, gives reassurance that full compliance is being achieved with optimum claim defensibility, should an incident occur.”

About Sarah OBeirne


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