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Winter means more than cold weather – risk and insurance profiles change. How can you put your company on a solid footing and avoid costly slipups?
What are the most common insurance claims made in winter, why they are often rejected, and what can you do to keep your business running smoothly through sleet, fog and whatever else the dark months may bring?
As a small or medium-sized business owner, you know some of the hazards that buildings pose, and how quickly a small oversight can turn into a huge compensation claim. But have you ever thought about how these risks change with the seasons? You can take some simple steps to minimise winter damage.
Roofs and gutters: Imagine a storm caused a leak in your roof that damaged your IT equipment and brought your business to a halt. You might think your insurance would cover this. But it’s important to note that most policies only cover against the ‘insured event’ (i.e. the storm). If you’ve failed to adequately maintain your roof or gutters, the damage may be deemed to be the product of wear and tear – and your insurer may reject the claim.
Pipes: Burst pipes due to frozen water are the most common problem caused by winter weather. But again, you must prove to your insurer that you’ve done everything possible to minimise this risk. During the colder months, ensure that your properties (including factories and warehouses) are kept at a minimum temperature above zero, especially if they are vacant.
Paths and walkways: Ice is a major hazard in winter. Imagine if a client or contractor slipped outside your office, or had a collision in your car park for which he or she held you responsible. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure your outside spaces are well salted and gritted when it gets really cold – and that handrails are fitted wherever possible.
Whether you run a fleet of vehicles, your employees use their own cars for business purposes, or you simply want your staff to arrive for work(!), the basic advice is the same – and should be made clear to all those under your supervision.
Tyres and lights: These are both common contributors to accidents and should be given special attention in winter. The legal minimum for tyre tread is 1.6mm, but 3mm will increase braking speed massively in icy and wet weather. Lights should be in good working order, and kept clean to maximise visibility.
Fluids: Oil and anti-freeze are the most important liquids to keep an eye on in the colder months. If you’re not sure how to check them or which products you should be using, consult the manufacturer’s instructions. A small oversight can mean being stuck in a snowstorm.
This might seem like an odd category, but it’s important to include because people can’t be insured against in the same way as buildings as cars. We’ve already seen how some basic training in vehicle maintenance can increase the chances of your staff getting to work. Now let’s look at how you can keep them there.
Colds and bugs: ‘Tis the season to be sniffly! And this means more staff absences, which can seriously affect your bottom line. Taking measures to minimise infections and viruses can be well worthwhile. Consider putting in place an occupational health programme, which might include the flu vaccine for workers most at risk.
Accidents: Sending an employee outside to shovel snow could result in a back injury that keeps them off work for weeks. The same goes for wet and slippery floors and machine accidents, which can increase due to bad visibility or heavier clothing getting trapped. Again, a basic training programme will address these less obvious risks.
Don’t forget – it’s also the season to be merry, and many businesses’ profits rise in winter. Just a little bit of extra care can ensure yours stays in the black, and off the black ice!
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