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Bad weather preparation

Author: Sharon Ensbury/01 December 2014/Categories: HEALTH & SAFETY, Creating safe working conditions

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The bad weather period is upon us again! How many times do we get caught out in this country waiting until it’s too late to make proper preparations for what could be several days or many weeks of bad weather disruption?  Clearly businesses need to have specific plans in place that can be used to avert the problems caused by such events. A business continuity policy should have ‘bad weather’ inclusion to ensure that your company can cope with a crisis.

As far back as 2010 it was reported in The Guardian that Insurance firm RSA famously warned that Britain’s economic output could be hit by up to £14.5bn over a three week period if the then freezing conditions continued. 

The cost of bad weather could be estimated at £690m per day. Since 2010 we have witnessed the advent of a variety of disruptive conditions from snow, ice, flooding to storms and as yet employers still do not seem to adequately prepare for the inevitable.

What if the workforce can’t get to work?

If your staff are unable to attend work during bad weather it is difficult to be able to assess how to deal with that situation. Contractual arrangements have to be considered very carefully. Whilst there is no legal obligation to pay an employee’s wages who fails to turn up for work there are statutory protections to consider and a trade off with maintaining staff morale. A sensible option can often be for employers to allow some sort of flexi-time working arrangement of a work from home provision.

If a decision is made to close the business during bad weather conditions, employees will have to be paid as normal. Getting staff to work in hazardous conditions will have its perils and needs to be closely assessed. The Forum of Private Business has some good tips for helping employers evaluate the viability of ‘home working’.

Within your continuity policy it is a good idea to set out some information for employees to understand how the company views ‘bad weather’ employment:

  • What company measures are in place to deal with bad weather.
  • What you expect as a performance level for tasks affected by hazardous conditions.
  • Who employees should contact in the advent of inability to attend work.
  • Who will contact staff to inform them if the business premises is closed.
  • What ‘work from home’ allowances are made for employees.
  • Payment terms for employees who do not attend work because of weather disruption.

It may often be essential to carry out certain clearance tasks to enable staff to gain access to the business premises or continue their normal working tasks within the company. There is some good help and advice available on this topic. 

Snow and ice can be difficult to move away from access areas so it may be beneficial to invest in some equipment to help that process. There are a number of useful products here that can help by attaching equipment to fork lift trucks or stackers.

ploughScoop 

For manually clearing away snow here are some great tools to help.

hand ploughRotator

The process of spreading grit and salt can help to make walkways, entrances and yard areas more safe for pedestrians and again there are a number of handy tools to help:

manual gritting

 

Making a safe work environment

Evaluation of the hazard to work is also extremely important in protecting your staff at work and therefore consideration must be given to the risk of ‘slips and trips’ at work. The Health and Safety Executive offers some help for employers assessing these risks.  

We often find that great disruption is caused to pipes and plumbing when temperatures fall suddenly and freezing occurs. Good preventative measures are useful in helping to guard against the massive difficulties experienced by businesses when this occurs. The obvious points to consider are :

  • Keeping the premises at a controlled temperature and ensuring that your boiler/heating appliances are fitted with a frost protection thermostat.
  • Ensure that you know where stopcocks and turn off points are located.
  • Good insulation – lofts, water tanks and pipes should all be lagged to an appropriate level to protect against freezing.
  • Check pipes and heating facilities regularly with a proper maintenance program being in operation.

How to deal with the advent of frozen or bust pipes  
Obviously the best protection is prevention! 

So it is important to realise that all of the points above are both considered and dealt with in your continuity policy. The main strategy should be to look at the following:
 
Form the plan
Bad weather, adverse conditions and burst or frozen pipes – explain what will happen to the business when adverse conditions affect your operation. The policy should state who is responsible for announcing any business closures or restrictions and where that information will be found.
 
Employee pay for days off in bad weather conditions
Make employees known of your contractual conditions.
 
Out of office communication
What do you want your employees to do and how are you going to advise them. Spell out ‘work at home’ conditions.
 
Assess the clear up work that is required
Invest in the equipment and facilities that enable the clear up and where necessary arrange suitable training for the operatives concerned

Assess your business’s liability
If you decide to keep your business open or to let people work in conditions that may cause a safety issue you need to check current legislation and your business insurance cover.

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