Why it makes good business sense to make sure you're ready for winter

Article by Maurice Logie

Moreland Insurance Brokers

Scots traditionally are fairly gung-ho about their winters. They know they will be bad, but they also pride themselves on the fact that they can deal with them.
So it is unusual this year to see the coming dark months being viewed with a degree of apprehension. Unusual, but perhaps perfectly understandable given the severity of the last two winters - during which large parts of the country simply ground to a halt.
There is an uneasy feeling that this year is going to be every bit as bad as last, when temperatures plummeted well below zero for weeks on end, plumbers were run ragged dealing with burst pipes and the transport network proved more than usually inadequate.
Businesses across the country were badly hit - unable to get staff to where they were needed, deliver goods or even open premises. The economic and financial effects were still being felt well into the year.
It may not be as bad this winter, given the propensity of this country's weather to surprise, and 2011 may end benignly. But, just in case, it's as well to be prepared. Here, based on our long experience in the insurance sector, are few sensible suggestions to help you beat the winter blues:
Icy roads and increased hours of darkness result in hazardous driving conditions and a surge in motor insurance claims. Be aware of road conditions and make sure your drivers know what to do following an accident - i.e., take witness names and contact details and photographs of the scene and damage.
Minimise the risks of a burst-pipes claim by checking that your pipes are properly lagged and insulated from severe cold.
At weekends, and if you are closing for an extended period over the festive period, keep heating switched on at a low temperature, or time it to help prevent pipes freezing.
Make sure your insurance policy accurately reflects the levels of stock you have in your business – seasonal increases may mean that you need to consider an increase in your sums insured.
Ensure electrical installations are checked and in good working order.  Electrical faults are a common cause of fires, so preventative checks are a good investment of your time.
Winters aren't just about cold. Recent years have seen an increasing prevalence of flash-floods following heavy rainfall.  If it is practicable, have some sandbags available to keep the worst of it away from your doors.
Slips on icy surfaces are a major cause of costly liability claims in the winter. Beat the rush by obtaining a bulk-order of grit or coarse salt before the cold weather arrives and have a plan to clear paths for staff and public through the winter.
Have a recovery plan.  Make sure that you and key staff know who to call for emergency repairs to minimise the knock-on effects of a water-ingress or burst-pipe.
Understand your policy and what cover you have selected.  Denial of access to your premises and public utilities failure insurance are available, but not everyone selects them.
Breakdown cover for cars and properties is available for a much lower cost than advertised by the major providers.  Check what specialist providers with detailed local knowledge can do for you.
If you think this is all a bit pessimistic, remember that the big freeze in 2010 left smaller Scottish firms facing losses of more than £716m, according to a Bank of Scotland study.
It found that 68% of small and medium-sized enterprises had been affected financially by freezing winter weather, with 42% experiencing disruption to supply and deliveries.
More than a quarter of those questioned were forced to close for at least one day while one in six had to halt business for at least five days. So the message is not just to wrap up warm this winter, but to make sure your business is well insulated too.

Last Updated: 13-January-2012