This winter has so far seen temperatures across the UK tumble to well below average. And, if you have read some of the recent headlines, then we could be set for some pretty cold weather ahead still, this will undoubtedly spell trouble for some. This is why winter planning is vital right now for facilities management professionals. Longer winters, should they be occurring, mean forward planning to deal with freezing weather, over these apparently more pro-longed periods, is more pressing than ever.
The UK hasn’t seen a great deal of snow and ice over the last few winters, but no one can predict exactly how it will all pan out this year. From snow and ice to high winds and flooding, we all have to take responsibility and to be prepared for every eventuality.
We advise that businesses, and their FM (Facilities Management) partners, assess the risks posed by ice, frost and snow in the same way that they would all other workplace risks. They can then implement appropriate systems and controls. The unpredictability of our climate creates constant doubt and uncertainty, which – in turn – makes it crucial to plan ahead; a message we reinforce time and again. Are your winter plans in place?
Can you really afford a potential claim?
If you or your company own, rent or manage a property do you know what your obligations are in respect of dealing with extreme winter weather? Are you aware of what could happen if someone slipped and fell on your premises? Or if loose debris fell and injured a worker or visitor during high winds and storms?
The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 states that occupiers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to see that visitors are safe whilst using their premises. This extends to ensuring paths, car parks and other areas are cleared of ice and snow.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes taking steps to control slips and trip risks – see http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/faq.htm#icy-conditions.
Claims range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds – depending on the severity of the injuries and the impact on the claimant’s work and daily living.
According to Hospital Episode Statistics for England 7,031 people needed treatment in hospital after slipping on ice or snow in 2012/13. The following Winter of 2013/14 saw milder conditions and this number lowered to around 1,200.
Reputational damage due to a lack of winter planning
Coupled with a potential claim for injury or death would be the harm to an organisation’s reputation. Failing to safely grit premises puts a business not only at risk of financial liability from claims but they may also encounter other issues, such as loss of revenue through closure, targets not being met and damaged reputation. This is why winter planning is vital for FM’s across the UK.
The value of engaging in a winter planning partnership
Of course measuring the level of risk, deciding on a winter maintenance policy your company is comfortable with, and executing it can be tricky. If the actions you take aren’t deemed sufficient, then you could be leaving yourself open to a potential claim. We can help you to get your winter planning spot on!
FMs that put a plan in place with their customers are – effectively – taking out a ‘winter insurance policy’. This covers all parties for when the weather does become harsh, helping the organisation in question to remain open and operational during periods of extreme weather.
We work in partnership with our clients; no two contracts are the same and we ensure that the levels of service match the exact requirements of the premises in question. We have always followed a ‘plan, do, review’ process, and because we are operating within strict timeframes this enables us to be ready to provide our services where and when it is needed to the high standards possible.
We have worked with some clients for more than 10 years, constantly refreshing and monitoring throughout the service period. For many opting for fixed three- or five-year contracts on a fixed budget provides the peace of mind that – when the time comes – they have the necessary safety blanket in place. An historical average for the site postcode is used to calculate a fixed cost price for each season. This helps both us (as the supplier), and the client to effectively plan. Other clients want the option to pay as they go while still receiving a proactive fully monitored service you only pay for what you use.
It’s about keeping on top of the customer’s needs and requirements. It’s harder to fulfil a contract to its full potential when it’s on an ad-hoc basis, or has been implemented at the last minute.
A full site survey, risk assessment and method statement dictate the gritting and snow clearance winter plan for the season ahead. And our investment in the most advanced weather forecasting systems, coupled with tracking technology and state of the art equipment ensure we deliver the highest levels of service. At all times our aim is to reduce the exposure to risk – enabling our clients to rely on an extensive audit trail.
CASE STUDY: HUDDERSFIELD ROYAL INFIRMARY
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) opened in 1965, and is the specialist centre for emergency, planned complex, orthopaedic and vascular surgery, for the people of Huddersfield and Calderdale.
The estate, located in Lindley, covers approximately 7.8 acres of land. A 400-bed hospital, the site employs several thousand staff.
The estates management and operational team are required to provide safe, suitable access 24/7 to patients, visitors and staff. Historically directly employed labour worked around the clock to ensure roads and walkways were free from ice and snow, this involved using heavy agricultural machinery and labour.
During the summer of 2016, the Trust opted to review their operational response to adverse weather and evaluated cost, quality, risk and resources. De-ice was subsequently commissioned as the Trust’s out-of-hours winter gritting and snow clearance service provider, which commenced in Winter 2016. We were involved throughout their winter planning process.
Severe weather conditions
Chris Davies, General Manager: Estates Technical Services, said: “The site’s position and location mean that the hospital is quote exposed, and we often experience dreadful weather. It isn’t unusual for it to become very icy, and – in the past – we have had vast amounts of snow.
“Access and egress to the site for the blue light services is paramount. And we need to ensure that pathways are cleared for patients, staff and visitors. When it comes to winter gritting, cutting corners is just not an option.
“We really value the weather alerts that come through from De-ice, so we know when service will take place and – equally – the audit trail is invaluable.”