Although the UK has yet to see any really cold weather this winter, AXA Business Insurance is warning small businesses to be prepared for the problems that winter weather can bring. Estimates vary as to the true cost of cold snaps, but during the 2010 snowstorms it is believed that close to a quarter of small businesses had to close.
AXA, which is one of the largest insurers of SMEs in the UK, has put together the following tips to protect your business.
Get winter maintenance work done as soon as possible – don’t wait for the freeze to arrive before checking your boiler, pipe lagging or roof tiles.
Prepare an action plan for bad weather so that your business can continue to operate even if you or your employees can’t make it into work.
Make sure you/your employees have access to emails/contact numbers/documents if they need to work from home.
But if you do find you have to work from home when you are normally in business premises, check that your business cover extends to equipment used in your home.
If you have business premises that are going to be left vacant over the weekend or because employees are unable to make it in, ensure that the heating is left on low. Burst pipes are a huge risk once the temperature dips below freezing and can cause tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage, not to mention destroying important documents and equipment. Added to which, the clean up process can mean continued disruption to your business for several weeks.
If you need to leave your premises unattended during poor weather, ensure you lock up properly and set intruder alarms. A savvy thief will make the most of your absence if you don’t secure it.
If the winter weather comes in the form of heavy rain and your business is at risk of flooding, ensure you move any important/valuable items above floor level – or even store them elsewhere if possible.
Ideally, avoid driving anywhere if there is snow and ice on the roads. But if you absolutely have to be on the road for work, leave extra time and drive with extra care. The numbers of accidents in poor weather are double that of normal conditions.
And if you are out and about in your vehicle, ensure you pack a shovel, blanket, and something to eat and drink in case the worst happens. And ensure your windscreen wash is topped up, your mobile is fully charged and your tyres are fit for winter weather.
Avoid slip and trip accidents. These accidents increase in the winter due to ice and snow. Public liability insurance can provide cover for customers slipping on your premises, but it’s best to avoid accidents by gritting walkways and driveways and keeping floors dry.
Darrell Sansom, managing director of AXA Business Insurance said: “Winter weather can mean real problems for small businesses and while the focus might be on simply keeping things going during the bad weather, there are many other potential hazards that business owners should be prepared for. We would urge people to spend just a bit of time ensuring that they protect themselves and their business as best as possible.”