Six ways to ensure you are winter-ready

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Though it might feel a long way off, now is the best time to start preparing for the worst that the winter season has in store. Indeed, with summer still at the forefront of most people’s minds right now, it’s all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

The Beast from the East was the perfect example of being unprepared. So, what can you do during the last few months of summer to make sure you’re ready?

#1 – Safety first

All site managers have a responsibility to protect staff and visitors. Education on the importance of suitable footwear and clothing is one way to keep them safe, as is placing warning signs in areas known to be affected by ice.

#2 – Keep an eye on the forecast

It may sound obvious but one of the simplest procedures for making sure you’re prepared for winter’s worst is observing weather forecasts. TV weather is generally fine, but there are other more accurate, detailed and reliable ones.

For instance, the Met Office’s Open Road forecast, which we use to assess vulnerable surfaces across the UK, tracks weather changes and helps you focus on susceptible areas, so you can put plans in place.

Given the weather can often change without warning, alert systems and adequate protection plans allow you to be responsive and timely in dealing with the changeable British weather.

#3 – Assess the areas which are at risk

Now is the time to assess the vulnerabilities of your estate. For example, mezzanine car parks are especially prone to ice-accumulation as the air temperature is invariably different from that at ground level. Think of the frost on your car – it can form on your windscreen even if the ground around your tyres is clear.

Due to the heat sink, the ground retains heat from the summer, then gradually begins releasing it back into the atmosphere. For mezzanine areas above this warmer zone, any moisture on the surface will be more likely to freeze due to little heat retention and lower air temperatures having more of an effect.

Then there are obvious areas which require more attention and possibly alternative products, such as walkways in constant use and metal-plated steps. Draw up an action plan so that you are ready to implement your plans straightaway.

#4 – Make sure salt supplies are stocked

It’s vital you have adequate salt supplies and check the current condition of existing stocks meets your site’s requirements, especially in areas of high footfall. Get into the habit of checking these periodically.

Of course, there’s no use in having a full supply of grit if nobody can access it safely; ensure bins are in easy-to-reach locations, and you have enough for areas such as fire escapes and car parks. You should also take into account staff availability and how long they’ll take to grit.

It’s important to note that there are different types of de-icing product. White Marine Salt, the industry-standard natural mineral for gritting, has its limitations, especially in deeper snowfall and extremely cold conditions. It can also be too corrosive for certain surfaces, particularly those containing iron.

However, the alternatives are often much more expensive – five to 15 times more in some cases – which makes them too costly to use across a whole site.

#5 – Timing is important

A mistake many property owners make is gritting after ice or snow has already begun to form, rather than before. Grit is only preventative, and not a miracle cure.

When applied to the site prior to freezing conditions, salt essentially inhibits the formation of ice. Gritting surfaces already showing ice accumulation means it has to work much harder in order for this to react effectively and clear the ice. If snow falls, the salt on the ground inhibits some accumulations or aid snow removal by creating a saline barrier between the snow and the surface.

Ideally, all gritting should be carried out during the evening or overnight, so the salt can work ahead of people arriving and using these thoroughfares.

#6 – Expect the unexpected

More often than not, the UK is well-prepared for winter. Where we struggle is reacting to extreme weather variations. As an island nation, we are at the mercy of the elements and especially the Jet Stream, which is at the heart of so much of our weather and its dramatic variations.

Going back to the situation of the Beast from the East, this was an example of us being caught out by a sudden weather phenomenon which countries like Russia and Canada are invariably better prepared for. It is not normally financially viable to invest resources for these extremes, but this can be mitigated by having emergency plans in place and heed government advice.

Are you prepared for site closures? Do staff have the ability or tools to work from home?

Whilst winter typically runs from around November to March in a metrological sense, cold snaps can occur at any point around these times. And this is why getting an action plan together now will mean you’re ready for any eventuality, at any time.

Do it now and enjoy the rest of the summer with peace of mind that you have it covered. Here comes the sun…!

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