It is important not to leave winter planning until the first snowfall, explains Vicky Lopez.
09 October 2018 | Vicky Lopez
The 'Beast from the East' plagued the UK just a few months ago yet it seems like a distant memory in light of summer's heatwave. But the past winter was one of the most challenging in 20 years.
Three big snow events saw some counties cut off. The result was high demand from customers that had failed to plan adequately, which meant our snow clearance work was reactive/emergency, and we battled closures and delays on the roads, and elements beyond our control.
So this is what we learnt from the 'Beast', and what you can do to prepare for operational difficulties.
1) Take responsibility
If you are going to outsource your gritting and snow clearing to contractors, make sure you clearly scope the work they do and whether they have sufficient local resources and capabilities to deliver the service in all weather conditions.
Don't be pushed into a 'one-size-fits-all' contract. Examine the needs of your site and work closely with the contractor to guarantee that they are met. When do people come on and off a particular site? Are lorries on site all day? Is it an office with a 9-5 culture? FMs need to know when risk is high and what safeguards need to be in place. Bear in mind that spreading salt is best done before cold weather.
Ensure that your provider is fully aware of how your site operates, where your priority routes are, and how far the business will go to keep the site open during extremely adverse weather.
If you plan to use internal resources, make certain the following are in place:
Winter policy: Determine when, where and why you will grit or not grit.
- Resources: Have the necessary machinery, labour and products well maintained and ready for action.
- Forecasting: Decide upon a temperature trigger point (the industry standard is 0°C, which will kick-start your gritting operations.
- Training: Ensure that staff are trained to use the equipment.
An important consideration for those that manage winter resilience in-house is that in the event of a claim (which can be many years later), you have a clear audit trail and evidence as to why a site was or wasn't gritted.
3) Agree on the worst-case scenario
This will depend on the type of organisation and site requirements. An extreme example is a new client approached us in the midst of the 'Beast from The East' as it didn't have a winter service in place and had lorries jack-knifing on its site.
Part of the worst-case scenario requires making a judgement call on whether staff should come into work or not. This is the point where - in many cases - money becomes no object. For example, a hospital or hospice will need to remain open no matter how bad the weather.
4) Create a continuity plan
Consider the following points.
- Part closure/skeleton staff that can walk to work safely while others work from home.
- Clear winter policy so that staff know what is expected of them on a snowy day: Will they be paid? Can they take holiday or work from home?
- If you have zero tolerance for closure, invest sufficiently into a solution that gives you the best chance of staying operational.
- Budget for extra expenses in case of a severe winter.
- Plan but be flexible; although weather forecasting is accurate up to three to five days in advance, snow is the most difficult to predict and situations can change hourly.
5) Understand the service you've bought
Engage with your provider before winter begins to guarantee that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. This may not have been a service you originally procured and it is vital that no assumptions are made (on either side).
Take snow clearance as an example. With our 'proactive contracts', triggers are agreed to and set with the client for the individual site requirements. Our services are then activated automatically.
In addition, before any major adverse weather, a purchase order for additional work will ensure that service delivery processes will not be delayed and, if not needed, they can be cancelled. In that way, customers are charged only for the services they receive.
Vicky Lopez is founder and director of De-ice