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The good practice guide to winter maintenance. By Nikki Singh-Barmi, GRITIT MD

18-11-15, 08:53

Nikki Singh-Barmi, GRITIT MD (pictured) introduces the 'Good Practice Guide to Winter Maintenance' published to help FM's prepare for adverse weather.

"Any accident or injury sustained on an organisation's property can have a serious Nikki Singh-Barmi impact in terms of financial loss and a negative impact on business reputation, should a litigation claim arise. During the winter months, when snow and ice appear on the ground, often unexpectedly or at short notice, the risk increases. Few businesses can afford to be caught out by severe winter weather. Yet, in a recent BIFM winter preparedness survey, carried out this summer, almost a quarter of FMs surveyed said that they do not have any winter maintenance plan in place.

To help FMs prepare for adverse winter weather, from beginning preparations and scheduling interior and exterior maintenance tasks, to grounds maintenance, gritting, and snow clearance, the BIFM has published a new Good Practice Guide to Winter Maintenance in partnership with GRITIT.

The 'it's broken, so let's fix it' approach, which is similarly applied to property and grounds maintenance in winter, is leaving organisations wide open to a growing number of risks, such as risk of lost revenue, reputation and productivity resulting from accident liability claims or shut-downs caused by snow and ice. Increasingly unpredictable winters are also playing havoc with FMs' planned preventative maintenance programmes.

The Good Practice Guide explains how facilities managers can contribute to their organisation's strategic objectives by creating a robust winter maintenance plan that will ensure they meet their duty of care by:

  • providing compliance assurity
  • managing risk and meeting insurance criteria
  • supporting business continuity.

Facilities managers have a duty of care to ensure that employees, or anyone visiting or passing by the facility, including suppliers on company business and members of the public, are safe. Very few organisations have a winter risk policy embedded in their health and safety policy and, when severe weather strikes, this means that thousands of organisations are failing in their basic duty of care. The Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, states that organisations must assess the risks to employees and customers and arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring, and review of preventive and protective measures. An adverse weather policy, which clearly communicates how an organisation will manage, and take action in, extreme weather situations to protect the health and safety of staff is therefore vital for meeting the duty of care in winter.

As well as the Health and safety at Work etc Act 1974, there are a number of other important pieces of legislation that are relevant to facilities managers in the winter months. These cover workplace temperatures, working outside in cold weather, PPE (personal protective equipment) and ensuring that buildings and structures are safe. If organisations ignore the law, they place themselves at risk of legal action. This can have a major effect on both the individual concerned, the organisation's reputation and its finances and, over the past few years, there has been an increase in litigation with 'slipping on ice' accidents having the potential for the most high value claims and compensation.

The BIFM Good Practice Guide gives detailed guidance for creating a winter maintenance plan, from appointing a senior business 'champion' to allocating responsibilities, using weather data, carrying out detailed site surveys and specifications, allocating resources and measuring and reviewing performance. Ideally, winter maintenance should be an all-year-round job. Late spring and early summer is the time to review the winter maintenance plan 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.

Harsh winter conditions can present many challenges for FMs, from burst pipes, and the weight of snow on roofs to the ingress of water. There are a number of simple but effective exterior and interior maintenance areas, on which businesses can focus, to prevent and reduce the impact of cold weather on their operations:

  • exterior walls
  • windows and glazing
  • pipes
  • potholes roofs, gutters and downspouts
  • gritting and snow clearance
  • HVAC systems.

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 falls to or below 0c, provides reassurance for the facilities manager that all reasonable activity is taking place across the premises to mitigate business risk.

By taking a proactive approach, from beginning preparations and scheduling interior and exterior maintenance tasks, to grounds maintenance and gritting and snow clearance, businesses can be well prepared for adverse weather during the winter months."

> Click here to download a copy of the Good Practice Guide to Winter Maintenance.

Photo: Nikki Singh-Barmi, GRITIT MD
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