Ground Control: Avoiding a Winter of Discontent
Winter maintenance not only has a huge impact on companies’ sites, it also affects staff, customers and the surrounding communities. With slip, trip and fall claims on the rise following the increase of the ‘no win no fee’ culture, the issue of planning around the winter weather should surely be high on all companies’ lists of must dos not only to reduce the possibility of being sued, but also as a matter of simple health and safety. However, despite the threat of record breaking bad weather this year, many organisations it appears are not giving their winter planning any forethought; that is until the inevitable frost comes and affects everyone’s journeys to work.
Although the actual operation of spreading salt on the ground is reasonably straightforward, winter maintenance overall is extremely complex. Customers often don’t give a thought to weather trigger points and potential access issues; gritting operations are usually carried out overnight and therefore may require keys or specialist inductions as well as health and safety requirements. Consideration must also be given to the surrounding area in terms of the roads leading into the company, the car parks and the variety of working areas including access footpaths, walkways and loading yards.
In other words, winter maintenance requires planning. For example, does the company’s external footprint require gritting over the weekend? Where should the snow be piled once ploughed? Will the surrounding roads need gritting? Is there a need for frequent gritting, and if there is, what are the best times to do it? All in, there are numerous permutations, all requiring a plan to be devised around in order that business can be carried out as close to normal as is possible and crucially, without interruption or downtime.
The type of winter service required must additionally be thought about long before the thermostat is cranked up or the winter woollies come out. We get asked every year if we can provide a “reactive only” snow clearance service, which we can only assume is because the winter plan hasn’t even been considered. Not only is a “reactive only” service an unwise option, but it is also not as cost-effective as it seems at first glance. During the winter months, gritting and other winter maintenance services are required throughout the period; not just once. This means that planning is required by organisations such as Ground Control in order to match the amount of labour, plant and machinery needed with the demand.
If a customer chooses the reactive only service, that customer is in danger of losing out to those that have planned ahead. After all, winter maintenance providers will service sites that have a proactive agreement in place first, due to the ability to be able to think ahead. Salt can be taken to locations close to customers’ sites ahead of time; conversations will have been completed around what will need clearing and where any snow should be placed; a site recce can have been completed, if required, to work out in advance what needs to happen and at what time the gritting should take place to cause the least disruption. For those with a reactive service, none of this can happen meaning these companies will be at risk of causing disruption to their own staff and customers, with the obvious potential knock on effect on the company’s finances.
In conclusion, my recommendation to any organisation is that they treat winter maintenance like any other business need; they plan ahead for it. The winter months are just around the corner, and if they aren’t planned for, the risks could be at best problematic, and at worst catastrophic if customers can’t access the premises. Don’t be a reactive; be proactive to avoid a potential winter of discontent.
– Andy Simpson, Winter Maintenance Operations Manager.