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26 Sep 2023

Winter-Proofing Your Success

As the winter season approaches, high street business owners must prepare not only for the festive rush but also for potential risks and liabilities that come with it. Slip-and-fall accidents, property damage due to extreme weather, and increased incidents of theft are just a few of the challenges that businesses may face during this time. However, with careful planning and proactive measures, you can mitigate the risk of claims and ensure a safe and successful winter season for your high street business.

Winter-Proof Your Property

· The first step in preventing claims during the winter season is to winter-proof your property by ensuring that walkways, entryways, and parking spaces are free from ice, snow, and debris.

· Consider investing in anti-slip mats and include a place to store wet umbrellas, making sure the water does not pool in the entrance leading to a slip hazard.

· Consider salt, or sand for de-icing, and proper lighting to enhance visibility during darker winter evenings. Regularly inspect and maintain your property and fix any potential hazards promptly.

· As the evenings grow darker, the lighting of your shop front enhances visibility within your business, reducing the likelihood of criminal activity. Motion-activated lighting serves as both a security alert and a means to lower energy expenses.

· Check your glass frontage as it’s not just accidents or malicious acts that cause damage to your shop front, the onslaught of the Great British winter weather brings with it its own perils. Storms, snow, and cold weather can cause water damage and cracks to your glass. Risks can be minimised by investing in robust weather resistant glass, after all your shop front is open to the elements 365 days each year.

· Given the rising incidence of theft, it's crucial to prioritise security. Ensure that your service agreements for alarms and CCTV systems are up-to-date, and consider installing mirrors for added protection if necessary. If you do not currently have one or both security options, you should consider installing or updating your current system in situ. Alarms and CCTV not only provide valuable protection to your business but also evidence when following up on a crime. It’s important to note that signs should be displayed inside and outside your shop café or restaurant stating they are being recorded and theft will not be tolerated.

Give your business a ‘Winter’ clean

· Remove old stock and used boxes, making sure it is spotless and welcoming both inside and out.

· Ensure heating is serviced and in full working order, a warm shop, café, or restaurant can be a big draw on a cold winter’s day.

· Window displays and shop frontages should be clear of unnecessary posters or adverts and keeping the height of the displayed stock to a minimum will ensure the view into your premises is not obstructed. A clear line of sight into your business enables passers-by or employees to see into your premises and, if a crime is being committed take appropriate action. This also allows you to see out and spot potential thieves loitering.

· Outside your high street business, ensure all waste bins and boxes are stored away from the building and windows, removing the opportunity for thieves to access your premises via windows, sky lights and doors and taking away good hiding places!

Training of Staff

Well-trained employees are your first line of defence against claims.

· Provide your staff with comprehensive training on safety protocols, including how to respond to slip-and-fall incidents and how to manage extreme weather conditions and encourage them to report any hazards they encounter so that you can address them promptly.

· With the recent increase in shoplifting across the UK, include training on what to look out for as thieves act and look different from welcomed shoppers and there are some common habits and traits you can look out for.

o Nervous behaviour /acting suspicious(looking around, fast walking)

o Returning to your shop several times throughout the day

o Hanging around in areas that have lower visibility or not covered by mirrors/CCTV

o Aimlessly walking around

o Avoiding eye contact

o Looks at the staff instead of the products

o Wearing a coat on a warm day ready to conceal items or pushing an empty pram/buggy

o Carrying multiple or large shopping bags to easily slip items into

o People entering your premises in pairs, one distracts while the other steals.

Secure Insurance Coverage

· Review your insurance coverage to ensure it adequately protects your business during the winter season.

· This may include liability coverage for slip-and-fall incidents, coverage for property damage caused by extreme weather, and coverage for theft or vandalism.

· Determine if any additional cover is necessary for risks specific to your location and business type, even the most innocuous seeming slip could lead to catastrophic injuries which are very costly, so having a good level of protection here is key for peace of mind.

· EXPRESSION INSURANCE packages start at £2m Public Liability, increasing to £5m Public Liability cover for medium and large risks.

Clear Communication

· Clear communication with customers is essential to avoid misunderstandings and potential claims.

· The HSE explains that safety signs should be added if there is a significant risk that can't be avoided or controlled in any other way, such as through safe systems of work.

· Ensure that your contact information is readily available so that customers can report issues or concerns.

· Promptly respond to customer complaints or inquiries, demonstrating your commitment to their safety and satisfaction.

Create a Winter Safety Plan

· Develop a comprehensive winter safety plan for your business, outlining your strategies for snow and ice removal, emergency response procedures, and staff responsibilities during inclement weather.

· Train your employees on the plan and ensure they are familiar with the steps to take in case of an emergency.

Monitor Weather Forecasts

· Stay informed about upcoming weather conditions, especially during the winter season.

· Set up a system to monitor weather forecasts and alerts, allowing you to make informed decisions about opening, closing, or adjusting business hours as needed can help prevent accidents and potential claims.

Document Everything

Accurate documentation can be invaluable in case of a claim.

· Keep records of all safety inspections, maintenance activities, training, and communication with employees and customers. Demonstrating you have plans in place and that you have followed them, can help in defending any claims, should the worst happen and someone is injured.

· If an incident occurs, it's important for staff members to take immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected individual.

· After initial first aid has been assessed and provided, document the incident by taking notes and, if applicable, photographs of the scene and any hazards that may have contributed to the slip or trip. This may be important for insurance and legal purposes.

· Be sure to follow your company's specific procedures and protocols for reporting and documenting workplace accidents.

Remember that the most important priority is the well-being and safety of both employee and the injured person. If in doubt about how to handle a specific situation or the severity of the injuries, it's always best to err on the side of caution and seek professional medical assistance promptly.

In Summary

Winter can be a challenging season for high street business owners, but with the right precautions and planning, you can mitigate the risk of claims and ensure a safe environment for both your employees and customers. By winter-proofing your property, training your staff, securing proper insurance coverage, maintaining clear communication, creating a winter safety plan, monitoring weather forecasts, and documenting everything, you'll be well-prepared to navigate the potential hazards that the season may bring. Stay proactive, stay safe, and enjoy a successful winter season on the high street!

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