Keep cool and carry on!

Expert Insights

Adam Brindle CEO of The Grounds Care Group and UK Gritting offers some top tips to ensure businesses remain operational throughout the winter months.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) estimates that the winter months cost the UK economy between £600m to £1bn each year in lost working hours and business closures.

In addition, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that around five million days are lost each year through workplace injuries, with slips, trips and falls making up more than half of all reported major/specified injuries and almost 29 per cent of over-seven-day injuries. This clearly comes at a further cost to the wider UK economy, however it’s not just the financial cost that could land a business in trouble.

The following top tips are intended to help keep businesses and business owners compliant this winter, while providing adequate protection for staff and visitors:

1. Doing nothing isn’t really an option. Taking the right action will help manage risk and liability

Many businesses are guilty of burying their head in the sand (or snow!) when it comes to winter preparation. In fact there’s often a dangerous belief that taking action to clear snow and ice can actually increase your liability.

The truth is that you are responsible for the safety of those on your premises. Indeed, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 not only states that employers have a Duty of Care to provide a safe working environment for their employees, but also of anyone visiting or passing by a site, including suppliers and members of the public.

In many cases the public liability policies that you expect to protect your businesses when someone is injured onsite are conditional on the business taking sensible action to mitigate risks.

2. Small businesses are especially vulnerable

Smaller companies are those most affected by adverse weather through issues such as staff absences. If, out of a workforce of 10 people or less, a few are unable to make it into work, this poses a far greater issue than for an organization with hundreds of staff.

All businesses need winter contingency plans, and should take special care to determine whether staff can make it to work and work safely when onsite. When this isn’t the case, consider the option of remote working, where appropriate.

3. If you’re going to do it, do it right…

Clearing snow and ice is relatively straightforward but doing a good job is a matter of technique and timing.

The first step is always to clear snow away before applying grit. When gritting, it’s vital to get the quantity of grit right – too little won’t work effectively and too much will cost you in wasted salt. With supply of grit a challenge in bad winters, wastage is a real problem and could ruin any careful plans and budgets.

Make sure to apply grit at the right times. This is about anticipating bad weather before it happens. Businesses can now draw upon fairly accurate regional forecasting services that can identify when a bad frost is likely. Rain and snow can also have a major impact on the effect of gritting, so time your gritting to take that into account.

Applying the science will ensure that you don’t incur any nasty surprises and also will prevent you from wasting man-hours and grit supplies when the weather is bad. This focus on reducing waste is also why the leading professional contractors use software directly linked to weather data to initiate gritting jobs only when needed as it can bring down the overall cost of winter maintenance.

If in doubt, employ professional contractors to take away the worry of getting it right.

4. Planning and training is essential

Make sure to plan ahead for how your business will deal with snow and ice clearance. Decide which areas, for example car parks and paths, will be cleared and ensure that you have sufficient resource available to do a consistently good job. Reallocating staff to this task may be the best option, but consider carefully if this is the most profitable use of their time and skills or if the task should be outsourced. If you do have resource in-house, make sure staff are trained to be able to execute plans correctly.

5. Consider your customer and staff needs

Timing when to take action is also dependent on your business. For example, a 24-hour hospital A&E department has a very different set of needs to an office where people are working nine to five and arriving an hour earlier in the morning.

6. Keep open for business

Showing your customers that you’re open for business and taking the trouble to keep them safe sends a clear message that you’re a responsible, successful business. Remaining open in bad weather makes it possible for smaller businesses to take advantage of times when your customers won’t be journeying by car, and shopping locally instead.

Don’t get caught out this winter

It’s often a lot less cost and hassle to outsource your winter gritting and snow clearance to a professional, reliable company. It can be a lot more affordable than you might think and the peace of mind offered by knowing that your business is fully compliant and meeting its Duty of Care can be priceless.

For further information on how to keep your business operational and compliant this winter call The Grounds Care Group on 0800 122 3376 or email