Vicky Lopez is the co-owner of De-ice, a leading supplier of gritting and snow clearance services. She agrees that planning thoroughly and early is essential: “The first day of November (or the 1st October in Scotland), marks the official start of our winter service season. It’s a busy time of year, as we work towards finalising contracts with clients, preparing our teams and their machinery, and ordering in sufficient levels of rock salt for the months ahead. It’s hard to believe, but summer and the run up to the winter ahead can often be our busiest time of year.
“It would be fair to say that we don’t often see a lot of activity as a result of extremely cold weather at the very beginning of November, but it wouldn’t be unheard of. And, for that reason, we guarantee to be 100 per cent ready.
“The stark reality is that there isn’t much time left to prepare for the season start. Only weeks and days remain until summer is over, and the frostier mornings begin to set in. We, and our clients, are ready, but are you?
“Here, De-ice offers its tips on ensuring a smooth transition into winter, and making sure your site(s) are ready to take on the cold weather that lies ahead. DONT FORGET… success will be down to thorough preparation.
- Know where you stand
Be aware of what service you already have in place, when it comes to the gritting and snow clearance of your site(s). Have you re-signed a contract with last year’s supplier? Are you on a rolling contract? Do you work along the self-service lines? Or, are you in a position that you don’t have anything in place at all?
- Review previous service levels
Take the time to review the services that you have previously had in place. Look at what worked well and what didn’t. Use these as key learnings, so that you can ensure the examples of best practice filter across into the season ahead, and are used by your service provider. Equally, you need to ensure that any mistakes previously made don’t happen again. Making a physical record of these and sharing is recommended.
- Know your sites
Make sure you have a full understanding of your sites, and what is needed at them. Which exits and entrances need to be covered? Are there car parks or any real hotspots of activity, where you cannot afford for downtime or accessibility issues? Or where an incident could easily occur?
- Know your budget
Knowing the level of service you require and engaging with a professional service provider will help manage budgets and enable you to be fully aware of what is available to you. Any reputable service provider will always look to work to the best of their ability within that budget and to effectively communicate with you. Be aware as in most cases – if it looks too good to be true then it probably is! You don’t want to be left with the phone ringing off the hook with complaints when adverse weather hits.
- Start to do your research and due diligence on winter service providers
With this, you should appreciate that there is a solution to every specific need; one size doesn’t have to fit all. The winter maintenance industry has matured, winter gritting and risk management is the norm and forms part of the FMs buying cycle. This maturity means that leading providers are, or should be, consistent when it comes to basic service provision. However, when it comes to bespoke requests, additional costs will apply.
- Standard contracts should include:
- Daily weather monitoring with forecasts from a reputable weather provider
- Email notification and confirmation of site attendance
- Service provided using dedicated gritting equipment
- GPS tracking
- Transparent audit trails
- Trained and fully insured operatives
“What you need to do is to work with a provider who is ready to partner with you, and to understand and try and act effectively on your requirements. Building a relationship is key; everyone needs to pull in the same direction, and want the site(s) to be safe and operational at all times.
- Remember, you are buying a winter ‘safety blanket’
Have an appreciation for the implications of things going wrong, whether that is legal action and/or reputational damage. Yes, setting up winter service is going to cost money, but you are effectively buying winter insurance. The money that it will cost will – inevitably – end up being a saving to the organisation.
- Start preparing…
It’s a message we hear drummed out year after year, but probably because it’s a valid one. Don’t leave planning to the eleventh hour – be prepared and take action now. Those who don’t are taking a serious gamble.
“De-ice is one of the UK’s longest-established and leading winter gritting and snow clearance specialists. The company provides winter maintenance services, helping to keep businesses, hospitals, schools and retail outlets safe and open during extreme weather.
“The company has built a bespoke technology system which monitors the weather and triggers service delivery alerts. The system then tracks operatives through their PDAs, to gauge whether service delivery has taken place. In the event of a possible claim, De-ice customers can rely on an extensive service audit trail in order to evidence that a site or an area was fully serviced.”