By Claire West

Following widespread snow and prolonged freezing conditions across the United Kingdom Marsh, the world’s leading insurance broker and risk adviser, has outlined a number of actions affected organisations should take to protect their physical assets, maintain their services and protect their employees and the public during this time.

Physical assets:
• Check all heating units for reliable operation and ensure that building insulation is in place, windows are not broken and openings are sealed.
• Regularly check power and telephone cables for build-up of ice and plan a safe method to remove it.
• Provide fire hydrants, sprinkler valves and fire brigade sprinkler connections with markers visible above potential snow piles.
• Protect water pipes, especially where they run outside or through unheated areas and disconnect and drain pipes in areas likely to freeze, if possible.
• Clean all roof gutters and down pipes ensuring they are free from obstruction.
• If portable heaters are required, ensure they are adequately maintained, staff are trained to use them safely and that fire risk assessments are updated to reflect the additional hazard.
• Ensure sprinkler systems are maintained and alternate systems are drained, and ensure sprinkler pump houses are adequately heated.

Vehicles:
• Check tyre, battery and wiper blade conditions on all company vehicles; and ensure that lights are fully functioning and oil and fuel levels are sufficient for each journey.
• If warming vehicles up do not leave them unattended with the keys in the ignition. Many cars are stolen this way by opportunist thieves each year.
• Make sure that cars are equipped with a shovel, de-icer, warm clothing and blankets, food and a flask of hot drink and a fully-charged mobile phone.
• Adapt your driving style to the conditions.

Business continuity:
To reduce the impact on businesses of days of snow, Marsh recommends that the following steps are taken:
• Review your Business Continuity Plan and consider how you’ll best be able to service your customers, suppliers and key stakeholders if your business is disrupted.
• Advise your customers and suppliers of any problems as soon as possible.
• Make sure you have up to date contact details for all staff and people you may need to contact, e.g. insurance company, emergency plumber and electrician.
• Encourage key staff to plan their continued availability for work in the event that their usual route is disrupted.
• Work with your IT provision to enable staff to work from home if appropriate.
• Review any possibilities for the temporary switching of some activities to other sites that may be less impacted and/or who have suitably experienced staff available.
• Ensure that HR policies for dealing with temporary staff absences are in place and well understood.
• Make sure that only essential business travel continues between sites and wherever possible arrange meetings via teleconference facilities instead.
• Provide regular updates to staff and any other impacted stakeholders.
• Arrangements should be made for access routes to be inspected regularly. Temporary signs denoting safe routes may be necessary.

Health and safety:
• Identify outdoor areas most likely to be affected by ice e.g. building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.
• Put procedures in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep employees and pedestrians off the slippery surface.
• For employees who have to work outside or work in unheated buildings ensure simple controls are implemented.
• Warm waterproof clothing and hot drinks are provided, employees take regular breaks, ensure job rotation is in place.
• Where homeworking will not unduly affect business efficiency, sanction this to avoid unnecessary travel (but provide guidance on health and safety for homeworkers).
• Ensure all traffic and travel routes on your site are kept clear of snow and ice and provide a stock of salt or grit for keeping paths and traffic routes free of snow and ice.