Sam Campbell, head of customer insight at SwitchMyBusiness.com, looks at the risks that come with the change in weather and your insurance liabilities as a business.
Winter means more than cold weather – risk and insurance profiles change. Without proper attention your company could make costly slip-ups.
Adaptation to colder weather is natural: few would wear shorts and a T-shirt as temperatures plummet, but UK SMEs can frequently underestimate the importance of adapting their own business.
Some risks become more prevalent, leading to an uptick in certain types of insurance claims made in winter. While you might already have cover in place, you may not realise that claims are commonly rejected because of inadequate preparations.
Follow the simple advice below and you should significantly reduce the likelihood of an expensive mistake.
You may already know first-hand some of the hazards buildings can pose, and how quickly a small oversight can turn into a huge cost. These risks can be even more severe as winter bites:
Roofs and gutters: A storm may seem like a mere inconvenience, but if a leak in your roof that damaged your IT equipment and brought your business to a halt you could lose thousands. Worse still, your insurance may not cover it as 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 common in winter. But, again, you must prove you’ve done everything possible to minimise the risk for insurance to pay out. Ensure all properties (including factories and warehouses) are kept at a minimum temperature above zero, especially if they are vacant.
Paths and walkways: Ice is an obvious but still underestimated winter hazard. If a client or contractor slipped outside your office, or had a collision in your car park, you are held responsible and could be on the hook for thousands in damages. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure your outside spaces are well salted and gritted when ice appears. Handrails could be a sensible investment too.
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 staff.
Tyres and lights: Another oft-overlooked contributor to accidents, tyres should be given special attention in winter. The legal minimum for tyre tread is 1.6mm, but 3mm will substantially increase braking ability in icy and wet weather. All lights should be in good working order and kept clean.
Fluids: Oil and anti-freeze are common fails for vehicles in cold weather. 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.
While people can’t be insured against in the same way as buildings as cars staff absences due to seasonal illness can be well worthwhile. An occupational health programme, which might include the flu vaccine, could soon pay for itself.
Accidents: Beware injury claims! Sending an employee outside to shovel snow could result in a back injury, which may cause weeks of lost productivity, even if they chose not to claim. This type of risk, along with problems associated with wet and slippery floors and other accidents can be addressed with a basic training programme.
While these simple steps are a vital first step, without proper business insurance cover your company could be liable for costs that result in bankruptcy.
Our simple and quick comparisons focus on finding affordable policies with the right cover based on every company’s specific business insurance requirements. You can get no obligation advice by calling SwithMyBusiness.com on 0800 411 8830.