Preparing for winter can cut disruptions your FM team might face. This excerpt from the BIFM Good Practice Guide to Winter Maintenance draws on best practice.
30 October 2015 | By Nikki Singh-Barmi
Many FMs think about gritting and snow clearance as an add-on to daily operations that just needs to be taken into account during the winter months. It is often an extra task given to in-house staff who only have the time to carry out a reactive service with minimal training.
This 'it's broken, so let's fix it' approach, which is also applied to property and grounds maintenance in winter, is leaving businesses wide open to growing risks. Increasingly unpredictable weather, a growth in compensation culture and the need for business continuity all demand a planned approach.
No business can afford to be caught out by sudden severe weather, nor by another harsh winter like 2009/10, which left many businesses out in the cold. Flights were cancelled, snow caused chaos on the roads and rail, and ice at business, retail and commercial sites - turning car parks and footpaths into skating rinks and causing a grave risk to all those driving or walking.
Every business should have a comprehensive winter maintenance plan, yet almost a quarter of FMs still don't (as revealed by BIFM's 2015 winter preparedness survey).
Canada, the US and Scandinavia are well equipped to deal with harsh weather, so the UK must leave behind the idea that it is too costly an investment or that what is already in place will do. A well-developed and robust winter maintenance plan is an asset that can contribute to the strategic objectives of a business by:
- Ensuring that you meet the Duty of Care;
- Providing compliance assurity;
- Managing risk and meeting the insurer's expectations; and
- Supporting business continuity.
With a proactive approach, from beginning preparations and scheduling interior and exterior maintenance tasks, to grounds maintenance and gritting and snow clearance, FMs can be well prepared for bad weather. This greatly reduces the risk of accidents and personal injury claims, as well as the risk of financial and reputational losses caused through downtime and neglecting the health and safety of employees and the company's Duty of Care.
Creating a plan
The plan should start in summer with preparations for winter and develop all year round. A company 'champion' should be nominated for the winter maintenance plan, which should be incorporated into the organisation's health and safety policy to give strategic input to the organisation's top-level decision-making. Key elements of a winter maintenance plan are:
- Ensuring that the plan is robust through a recognised health and safety management system such as OHSAS18001;
- Appointing a senior 'champion' of the plan so that this has appropriate importance within the organisation and has a high level of buy-in;
- Defining overall responsibility for the plan;
- Assigning specific tasks to individual team members;
- Maintaining records showing the plan has been delivered and keeping these for a minimum of three years;
- Documenting the proactive winter management plan and service activity, fully investigate accidents, and record all details;
- Ensuring the plan is based on real-time accurate weather data and agreed action triggers for service;
- Carrying out detailed bespoke site surveys and specifications in identified hazardous areas;
- Allocating adequate resources: - a trained team and sufficient and well-maintained PPE;
- Communicating the plan clearly so that everyone, from operators to staff and visitors, is aware of his/her responsibilities;
- Measuring performance against clearly defined KPIs;
- Reviewing plans and policies - at least bi-annually; and
- Sharing winter risk plans with the company's broker/insurer.
Stop assets freezing
Companies invest heavily in equipment and assets that need to be kept in top condition. As expensive as the capital cost of the asset is, the real negative impact is on compliance, staff health and safety and/or business performance if equipment breaks down or works poorly. The FM team must create a maintenance management programme that is integrated with the financial and operating schedules of the business.
Preventative maintenance and condition-based monitoring create a more reliable way for businesses to cope with severe weather. A planned maintenance programme should be considered as part of a continuing winter maintenance plan, especially for:
- Electric and gas supplies;
- Heating, ventilation and cooling systems;
- Fleet maintenance;
- Roofs; and
- Pipes and drainage systems.
FMs should see the advantages that new products and services can bring over the long term.
Nikki Singh-Barmi is managing director of GRITIT
The BIFM Good Practice Guide to Winter Maintenance
This draws on best practice from the importance of weather data, scheduling interior and exterior maintenance and gritting and snow clearance to the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), driving safely and vehicle maintenance. To pre-order a copy, visit the BIFM website.