|According to Consulting engineers Sanderson Associates who run the website floodrisk.co.uk flooding now accounts for nearly 10% of all business disruptions with around 185,000 commercial properties at risk of flooding in England and Wales. And of course flooding isn’t the only potential difficulty facing businesses during winter months: strong winds, freezing temperatures and snow all present problems for business owners and their employees.
So what can you do to ensure the safety of your staff, site and logistical aspects of your organisation are weather-proof?
Being prepared with a clear, concise plan or policy that’s communicated to all staff is essential for business peace of mind this winter. Develop or update your Winter Weather Plan, to ensure you cover the specific risks associated with all aspects of severe weather.
Have a Plan
It’s important that you, your employees, customers and suppliers know what to do in the event of serious weather emergencies to ensure the safety of staff and stock, as well as minimising disruption to business.
Check online and register for alerts and updates from the Environment Agency and take the steps necessary beforehand to ensure your business stands the best possibly chance of surviving flood damage. Ensure all staff know who is responsible for securing the premises and moving stock to higher ground if appropriate. By operating a ‘trickle down’ system one person can take overall responsibility for decisions, disseminating to key personnel who in turn disseminate wider until all employees, customers and suppliers are informed. Issue staff with a keyring printed with contact details for their liaison point.
Ensure that your business has a gritting and snow clearance policy, especially if operating a warehouse with delivery and commercial vehicles. At the very least you will need to ensure an adequate supply of commercial salt, snow shovels and hi-vis clothing to ensure staff and visitors can access your premises unhindered.
- Vehicles: when temperatures start to dip it’s essential that your company vehicles are well maintained and winter-ready. Additionally it makes good sense to look after staff and offer weather advice for their personal vehicles. The RAC state the 3 key areas to check are your battery, tyres and screenwash. Supply staff with a checklist, de-icer and ice scrapers. Why not team up with a local mechanic to offer a free vehicle check over for your staff?
- Heating systems: if your premises are left unoccupied (such as weekends) turn the thermostat lower but keep the heating on each day to ensure pipes don’t freeze.
- Sprinkler systems: ensure these are checked annually to reduce the chance of burst pipes and water damage.
Assess Your Risks
Make sure that your insurance is kept at an appropriate level for your business needs. It is essential that you have adequate cover in the event of workplace accidents caused by bad weather. As everyone knows, many policies have small print so make sure that you’ve read and understand exactly what protection you have.
Developing and clearly communicating your ‘Winter Weather Plan’ may seem like a luxury but it’s essential that your premises, stock and supplies are well protected and in good working order. Have a summary printed with contact numbers printed on fridge magnets that staff can also keep at home.
Knowing that these points are taken care of will give everyone the confidence to handle winter adversity this year as well as the peace of mind of knowing that you value your team, customers and suppliers enough to have contingency plans in place for whatever the weather throws at you.
Further Reading / References
Flood Risk Assessment. Sanderson Associates.
Preparing your business for flooding. The Environment Agency.
Preparing your vehicle for winter driving. The RAC.