Are You Ready for Winter or will Your Business Catch a Cold?
There are a number of things that can put a lot of extra strain on any business in winter. How serious the effects will be depends partly on the nature of your business, but mainly on how well prepared you are. In this article we look at the main risks and consider some of the ways in which they can be managed.
Most businessmen and managers are aware of the damage that severe weather can do to buildings, vehicles and machinery, and they take sensible precautions, which we need not go into here, but a few other risks which may be less obvious can make a big impact on your profits, or at worst can threaten the survival of your business.
“Continuity” or “Resilience” Risks.
Two things are likely to occur in winter which can affect most businesses:
v Staff absences, due to ‘flu or other illnesses, or just from the effects of bad weather on road and rail transport.
v Supply chain problems, from similar causes.
These can reduce your output and can lead to a failure to deliver goods or services to your clients. The long-term results will depend on the nature of your business and on your relationship, contractual or other, with your clients, and possibly on how quick your rivals are to step in.
Losses can also arise from claims brought by members of the public, or by your employees, blaming you for injuries they have received as a result of the following seasonal factors:
- Ice, especially in car parks, access roads, footpaths, forecourts, or other areas you are responsible for.
- Reductions in inspection and maintenance of buildings, land, and machinery due to staff absences.
- Lack of supervision over key tasks also due to staff absences or to additional calls on the time of senior staff.
Such claims may be costly and time-consuming regardless of whether you were really at fault or not.
What can you do about it?
You cannot control the weather, or the authorities’ response to it [unless you are someone who does control a rail company or highway authority, if so please think about the effects on businesses of your decisions!] but you can take steps to improve your chances of surviving.
- Identify key issues for your business: people, property, processes and projects.
- Make contingency plans for whatever you consider your most serious risks.
- If possible, ask your suppliers about their readiness for winter.
- Train staff to deputise for one another in key areas.
- Draw up some back-up plans: to take on extra staff, to outsource work, or to use alternative suppliers, in the event of the usual arrangements failing.
- Check your legal responsibilities regarding any land where people may fall on ice, including duties in any leases with your landlord, and draw up procedures where necessary for inspecting, clearing, or otherwise making safe the key areas.
- Above all: carry out Risk Assessments and document them.
- Do not be afraid to decide to do nothing, if you consider the danger is so unlikely or not so serious as to justify the cost of any measures you might take.
How Does All This Help?
In the event of a claim, you will be much better off if you can show you have considered the risks and made a reasonable effort to deal with them, than if you seem to have done nothing about foreseeable issues. Even if you decide to do nothing, a record of that decision and of your reasons for it will be a help in defending a claim.
What About Insurance?
Finally, review your insurances to see if they give sufficient cover for the risks facing your business. You will be able to make better decisions about insurance after you have gone through all the other steps, and you will probably get a better response from your insurer too.
Be prepared so you won’t slip up this winter!