Weathering the winter season: protecting your property in the colder months

Poor weather conditions pose hazards to commercial properties, with the potential for costly claims
Diane Johnston

THE winter months bring more than just cold weather and shorter days. Poor weather conditions pose hazards to commercial properties, with the potential for costly claims. To fully protect your business during the impending winter period it is worth reviewing your property insurance cover.

A flexible, all-encompassing property insurance provides the reassurance of protection should winter weather arrive on your doorstep.

For most business' your premises are the cornerstone of your business so protecting the physical shell against unexpected severe weather is vital. Focus on adding additional protection your property for maximum protection, including roof insulation, pipe laggings, and boiler maintenance. Keep your building plans close to hand to identify stopcock locations, allowing water sources to be shut down quickly in an emergency. Organise a risk assessment and frequent building inspections, surveying the property exterior to check the roof for loose, cracked or missing tiles.

Don't forget to protect your most valuable assets: your people. Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) reveal that falls are the biggest cause of workplace fatalities in Northern Ireland, with 95 per cent of major slips resulting in broken bones. To avoid winter injuries, it is important to know the terms of your lease and every member of your workforce is vigilant in snow and ice removal efforts.

It is important to consider how your employees travel to and from the business premises, and safety precautions taken while doing so. The clocks changing at the end of October can result in 20 more crashes on the roads per day for the next month according to UK police data. The RAC Foundation also states that the worsening weather has a large part to play in accidents to and from work.

Additional precautions, such as grit outside your premises and weather mats at entrances can prevent slips, trips and falls. Check weather mats on a regular basis to confirm there are in suitable working condition, with no curls, as these can present tripping hazards.

One component that is often forgotten until needed is exterior lighting around your property. With evenings turning dark rapidly, a well-lit business car park and surrounding area allows for employees, clients and visitors to see slippery areas. If an incident should occur, have an action plan in place for reporting incidents and securing the property, along with how to take remedial action to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Informing your employees about winter problems is key to looking after the business during the colder months. Share knowledge and advice on heating, ventilation and the removal of condensation to guarantee measures to protect the property are exercised by all who use it.

Winter weather can affect all aspects of your business and it is important that your insurance covers you appropriately, especially for the time of year. Property insurance provides the assurance that once your business has taken all precautions necessary to work safely, even if an incident does occur, you are protected in every way possible.

:: Diane Johnston is head of SME at Autoline Insurance

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