Snow and ice ahead – is your Winter Plan ready?
It’s a fact that UK winters are unpredictable, and that can make them really disruptive for business owners! To minimise that disruption, there are some steps that you can take before the thermometer drops. We’ve already had some snow and ice this winter, but it’s likely there’s more to come before we see the Spring sunshine.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas that might minimise the disruption:
If you have a disaster recovery plan for your business, your Winter Plan should form part of that. This would look at the worst events that may happen, and outline contingency plans that would click into action as or when needed. These would include events such as power outages, floods or similar.
Work with your team to prepare your Winter Plan, and make sure that everyone understands their role should it be needed. Many business owners fall at the final hurdle having put the effort in to design a plan, as they don’t communicate it to the wider business. It’s sitting in a drawer when it should be deployed!
Communication and Travel
Following on from the mention of communication above, it’s essential that your team know and understand the policy for severe weather. Are they expected to travel to work regardless? Can they work from home? How do these requirements change if their children’s school closes?
A clear policy as part of your Winter Plan, developed with your HR advisor, will prevent confusion. This needs to be flexible enough to adapt to unexpected circumstances, but clear enough that managers can implement it consistently
Before any adverse weather arrives, it can be helpful to check your premises. Look for things like loose gutters, roof tiles, blocked drains or similar. If your premises are rented, report these to your Landlord so they can be dealt with before high winds, freezing temperatures or similar propel them to the top of your list of concerns.
Keep an eye on these areas too after any high winds or Winter storms we may have.
Check that your boiler is working efficiently, or that supplementary heating is available if necessary. This year you may also want to review the potential cost of those alternative options, given the high cost of energy.
Once again this Winter, it’s a good idea to keep ventilation in mind as well in your Winter Plan, to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 and any new variants that may arise, as well as the flu and severe colds that have been circulating.
Health and Safety
Many of us find this a frustrating and distracting subject, but at this time of the year it’s essential to give careful thought to the Health and Safety risks that severe cold weather can bring.
Snow and Ice can make external areas dangerous to both staff and visitors. If you lay salt in the event of poor weather to reduce the risk of slipping, you need to have clear guidance for where it should be used, as well as sufficient stocks and the right equipment for staff to use when spreading it, and to protect themselves. You should keep clear records of where treatment is laid, when and by whom.
Such conditions can caused problems indoors too. Wet floors can be hazardous, as can extra boots or shoes that have been changed out of. Make sure your Winter Plan takes these things into account. Taking care of them should be common sense, but accidents can still happen if they aren’t addressed!
External and internal lighting needs to be sufficient too, particularly in the event of a power cut. Torches can quickly solve the problem inside, but outside may need more thought.
Outdoor workers or those who need to travel for work need to be considered too.
- Is it safe to drive?
- What criteria should be used to make that decision each morning?
- What items should the drivers have to ensure they are safe in the event of a breakdown, or accident in severe conditions?
- Can those who work outside access a warm environment for breaks, and do they have sufficiently warm and waterproof clothing for the conditions?
The answers to these questions will differ by industry but also by business, so there is no ‘right’ answer.Head
Sickness and Absence
This is another area to work on with your HR advisor and that needs to be clearly communicated with your team.
Seasonal sickness rates are always higher in the first months of the year, as schools are back and the weather worsens. This year there is the continuing risk of Covid to consider, as well as increased prevalence of flu and Scarlet Fever.
Continued use of good hygiene practices, including hand sanitiser and hand washing, will help keep infections at bay to a great extent.
Make sure your team understands your stance on sickness and attendance and that your Winter Plan outlines any point at which you want them to stay at home, rather than bring germs into an enclosed office.
In the week before Christmas one client had four key members of their team off sick, as flu had gone through the office, and the business was severely compromised. How could your business cope with that scenario?
Once we reach Spring, schedule some time to review what parts of your Winter Plan were called upon, and how they worked. Think through also what could change before the start of the next Winter period, such as a change of business location, structure or a larger team. Any of these would have an impact on how the business could respond to severe weather.
This one requires some careful and practical thought, and probably at least one conversation with your HR advisor. They can help you get the right Winter Plan in place for the rest of this Winter, and ensure your wider team understand it.
If you don’t have an HR Advisor that can help you with this sort of guidance, please get in touch. We can let you have details of Advisors we’ve worked with or from our networks, who will be able to do more than keep you out of the Tribunal Courts.
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