ice to poorly trained staff caused a just-in- time supply chain to grind to a halt. To borrow an analogy from elsewhere

in the FM world, when it comes to winter maintenance many organisations find themselves affected by “blocked toilet syndrome”. In other words, a vexing problem that has to be dealt with reactively. Yet this attitude is dangerously ill suited to the risks presented by snow and ice.

The costs of slipping up with Health and Safety

Aside from the cost of lost business, there’s also the risk of accidents resulting from icy conditions. In research we conducted alongside the BIFM, almost 40 per cent of FMs reported two or more ‘slip and trip incidents’ in the previous winter. Accidents will of course happen, but ‘slipping on ice’ accidents have the potential for the most high-value fines and compensation claims and the law is uncompromising in cases of negligence. According to the Health and Safety at

Work Act 1974, organisations have a Duty of Care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, including the pro- vision of a safe working environment. This also extends to anyone visiting, or passing by the facility, including suppliers on company business and members of the public. When organisations need to be able

to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to make an environment safe in wintery conditions, there is a clear- cut case for a highly professional approach. This should encompass everything from risk assessment, planning, staff training or appointing contractors, as well as

documenting when and how work is carried out. These processes, which technology is making increasingly more efficient, are particularly important when accidents do happen. At the same time, it is also important to remember that breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act can lead to prosecution even where no actual harm has occurred. Moreover, changes in sentencing guidelines, introduced in 2015, removed the maximum cap on fines, which means that the financial costs of getting things wrong could be disastrous for a business.

Demand professionalism throughout the supply chain

As awareness of the consequences increases, so too does the recognition of why professional standards matter. In the highly

outsourced market of FM, this is good news: We are seeing organisations waking up to the risks and seeking to ensure that quality standards are reflected by their contractors and downstream through the entire supply chain. Even so, there are still instances when contracts are agreed, in full knowledge that a service can only be delivered in a way that falls short of best practice. Here, it’s important to note that professional service delivery can depend on how an organisation approaches procurement. Therefore, just as the best time to

procure IT security isn’t after you’ve been hacked, getting snow and ice clearance right is best done before you have cause for regret. While, admittedly more mundane than other areas of risk management, winter maintenance warrants a professional, proactive approach.

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