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Snow in car park winter maintenance

Cold Facts: Winter Maintenance Should be an all year round job

Winter maintenance should be an all-year-round job. This is why September is a good time to prepare for every eventuality

Outside of the winter months it is easy to forget that all too soon the weather will turn and freezing temperatures and winter gritting will suddenly become a pressing issue. As we look ahead to this seasonal change, protecting employees and the public from the risks of slips and falls in icy conditions is an incredibly serious responsibility for FMs.

As the saying goes; fail to prepare, then prepare to fail, this couldn’t be truer when it comes to procuring your winter services and preparing your winter services plan. As the winter gritting experts OUTCO can ask if you’re ready for winter? Unfortunately too many facilities managers wait for the season to change before booking their winter services.

Ultimately winter maintenance should be an all-year-round job: late spring and early summer are actually the ideal times to review your winter maintenance plan using up-to-date information, and drawing on experience from the previous winter while it is still fresh, to resolve any issues, explore new initiatives and allocate budget to improve the plan going forward for the coming winter. But even if you’ve yet to consider your winter maintenance plan, their advice is simple; don’t wait until it gets cold before booking your winter services.

Planning saves cost

Inflation and rising costs are front and centre on all our minds right now. The impact of inflation on business is well documented and as you would expect, we pay close attention to any changes brought about by this business-critical challenge.

Two main winter commodities; vehicles and salt have been impacted heavily due to inflation (and other global factors), and we are now seeing prices rising by over 20 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. By booking your winter services early or by fixing your prices for a longer term, you will insulate yourself from the inevitable industry-wide price rises.

Winter Maintenance

Winter services and insurance cover are often seen in a similar light. We all hope we won’t need them, but if we do, we are covered. The facilities managers who are hedging their bets and waiting to see what the winter weather will be before booking services are treading on thin ice, and are potentially exposing their companies to an unduly high level of risk.

Failure to adequately plan and act can obviously impact anyone unlucky enough to suffer a fall, but it can also harm an organisation’s reputation and bottom line. Legal actions can have severe financial impacts and recent years have seen society become increasingly litigious with the rise of the ‘no win, no fee’ culture. Most worryingly, ‘slipping on ice’ incidents have the potential for the highest value claims and compensation. As a result, proactive winter maintenance planning is becoming even more vital as a way to help businesses to mitigate risks.

So how ready should your organisation be? The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that an employer has a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, including the provision of a safe working environment. This duty of care also extends beyond staff to anyone visiting or passing by a site, including suppliers and members of the public.

OUTCO winter gritting vehicle

Proven provider of Winter Maintenance

We know from our own experience, that many businesses are caught out every year by the change in weather. These companies fail to make sufficient (or any) winter gritting and snow clearing provisions – don’t let this be you. The last thing you want to be doing when the weather gets cold is panic searching on google to find an untrusted/unproven provider, who may or may not be able to help. You simply can’t afford to take this risk.

Working with a reputable winter service provider with a proven track record provides peace of mind to you as a busy manager that your duty of care has been met and that your sites will remain safe and compliant throughout winter. OUTCO has built a successful reputation and we ensure that essential winter services are delivered on time, every time and without fail.

stocked up salt stores

As well as being the largest and first company in the UK to specialise in winter gritting and snow clearance we are one of the largest buyers of winter de-icing salt in the UK and we primarily purchase our salt unbagged, and in bulk. We use white marine salt as our main de-icing agent, as it is cleaner and more sustainable than mined brown rock salt.

We follow our own advice and make sure we have sufficient salt in stock well ahead of the winter season. Our salt is stored in over 250 strategically located depots across the UK, ensuring we have de-icing capacity where it is needed the most.

Over the years, we have built robust and reliable relationships with our suppliers, and we continue to strengthen these relationships year-on-year. Purchasing our salt in bulk helps to offset fluctuations in price and supply, this is a buying strategy that has proven to be successful. However, the price of salt is not immune to inflation, and we have seen the price rise by over 15 per cent.

Your current winter services provider should already have good stores of winter salt in stock, however, it’s always worth checking with them ahead of the winter season.

more volatile weather

Preparing for winter also means staying one step ahead of mother nature. Due to climate change, the UK is experiencing more volatile weather patterns, from record-breaking summer temperatures through to more frequent floods and intense winter storms.

Anticipating what the weather will be isn’t a case of watching the television forecast – it is far more sophisticated, for example with the use of real-time weather forecasting tools to ensure high-level temperature accuracy. With each customer and for every site a road surface trigger temperature is agreed, appropriate to the location and conditions on the ground and service when this temperature is forecast. This attention to detail and level of monitors means keeping ahead of the weather and mobilising resources accordingly.

Winter Maintenance summary

The UK often seems to be lagging behind other countries in managing extreme weather, and part of the reason is that readiness does take an investment of time and resource. However, looking only at the short-term cost implications of having a winter maintenance plan in place is to neglect the bigger risks of being found wanting in the event of an accident. So even if you don’t approach winter with meticulous planning, it’s sensible to get serious about gritting and your duty of care.

A provider should be able to help you prepare all year round for winter and have built up an enviable track record of consistently keeping top UK companies and critical infrastructure safe, compliant and fully operational throughout the harshest of weather. Investing in smart technology, the best weather forecasting systems and a team of experienced operators to self-deliver their winter services means helping clients ensure they stay one step ahead of mother nature.

FMJ Magazine Sept 22 Cold Facts Jonathan Sharpe

FMJ Facilities Management Journal

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