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Plan Your Winter Maintenance Early - GRITIT Present 5 Self-Preservation Reasons for Facilities Professionals

09-10-17, 10:00

Planned maintenance over the lifecycle of a building pretty much defines best practice and is key to extending the life and preserving the value of a property. Here are five reasons why this discipline should be applied in good time ahead of the winter season for all outside maintenance and gritting, as well as inside spaces.† Further advice can be found in the newly updated 40-page Best Practice Guide on Winter Maintenance prepared by GRIIT Ltd.

Control the controllable

It's true we can't control the weather, we can only control how we deal with it. While we've had a relatively easy winter for the past two to three years they have been especially variable. A few nasty cold snaps do remind us what winters can be like and should convince us that planning early is the more sensible strategy than hoping we might 'get away with it' again.

When bad weather hits the Facilities Management professional will have a mass of things that will be urgent and important and all will need to be dealt with. The tick list and associated stress levels will be considerably reduced when you have clear plans and actions and accountable people/companies who are set up to manage the impact of bad weather in advance.

Rest assured

Here we're talking about managing the risk of legal action from slips and falls. Employers have a responsibility for employees, visitors and suppliers for a Duty of Care for a safe environment. It's not an option to neglect taking effective steps to make sites safe during harsh winter weather. Several thousand people were treated in hospital after slipping on snow or ice in what was a relatively a mild winter in 2014/15 and stats tell us this figure would triple in a harsh winter. Compensation claims continue to rise and consumers are more willing to defend their rights and be prepared with body cams and photos for evidence. Preparation is needed for practices that ensure everything is done to prevent accidents and this can be proven; risk assessments, policy for dealing with icy conditions, documentation/pictures of when this has been done. Such evidence is needed even when you have full liability protection insurance and to meet your insurer's expectations.

Business continuity

Alongside the legal duties and possible repercussions of claims is the higher financial and reputational risks when the business can only partially operate, or not at all. We've all seen the figures of billions of lost revenue to the economy in severe weather and a whole blog could be dedicated to Crisis Planning and business continuity impacts. No matter how elaborate or basic your planning, customers will judge you by how you are seen to be prepared and how you act in adversity. For service based organisations customers will naturally compare your efforts on the day to the other local offices/factories/shops/doctors, so consider sharing plans and pooling knowledge and effort with your business neighbours.

Adverse Weather Policy

An Adverse Weather Policy states how your business will continue to operate for customers and how you'll protect H&S and maintain contact with suppliers and your employees. FM professionals need to be prepared for any changes in policies or operational changes that could impact the effectiveness of a workable adverse weather policy; tracking weather forecasts, early warning to staff, customers, suppliers, what activities can/must be maintained on site for which staff, suppliers and contractors, safest access routes to the site, preparedness advice for footwear and clothing for coming to work, to name a few. All need to be reviewed, resourced adequately, and have sufficient and well-maintained equipment and supplies.

Protecting your budgets

To apply the principle of 'controlling the controllable' to your funds, control is knowing precisely how much you have to spend and when it will be spent. Fixed or seasonal contracts for services take out the guesswork from winter budgeting and removes any exposure to additional costs of a cost per visit approach. It pays to allow time to check out how suppliers structure their service; there may be factors that are flexible that could keep costs down that don't impact safety, such as setting risk-assessed lower priority areas of ice and snow clearance for your site. However, you do also need to heed good advice; some measures may prove to be a false economy; it's more effective to proactively treat a path for ice and continue to treat it during extended cold periods than have to remove several built-up layers of ice manually. Finally, a proactive and budgeted winter maintenance plan can also have the advantage of a favourable impact on insurance premiums so make sure you share this with insurers well before renewal time.

This blog marks the release of the latest 2017 update of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Good Practice Guide on Winter Maintenance, prepared by GRITIT

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