– Propertyserve UK analyses the health and safety risks that many property managers may have taken during the winter floods –
Accountancy firm, PwC, revised up its forecast for the cost of flooding in December and January to £630m, including a £500m bill for the insurance industry*
British summer time is just around the corner, and after all the stormy winter weather – a bit of sunshine will be welcomed by many of us. If there is one thing the erratic weather of the past few months (and years) has taught us – it is that we all need to plan, for any eventuality.
Last winter winds reaching upwards of 90 mph and hundreds of flood alerts meant that properties (and their tenants) were at real risk from the elements. Property managers – up and down the country – with associated property damage were desperately trying to get hold of contractors and tenants in an effort to make safe their properties. It became mission critical for many of them; we even saw a level of panic setting in.
This lack of planning would have meant risks being taken when it comes to adhering to standard health and safety procedures. Due to the nature of the works, especially in emergency situations, it is often difficult for companies to ensure all health and safety regulations and guidelines are adhered to, and it becomes even more difficult to control costs. Equally, a number of property managers would have resorted to using contractors not previously approved, because they had no choice.
Between December 01, 2013 and February 28, 2014 our reactive maintenance helpdesk received a whopping 21,753 calls – a 42 per cent increase on last year – all as a result of the weather. The weather took its toll on property managers nationwide.
We were able to demonstrate that having a helpdesk that understands your business, properties and the tenants, means that there doesn’t need to be a knee jerk reaction; situations can be efficiently and effectively managed – whatever the weather, even if the property or facilities manager can’t be reached. And, as a result, health and safety will not be compromised.
Risk must be assessed, handled, and avoided where possible – covering areas including:
- Contractor insurances and qualifications
- Contractor risk assessments and method statements
- Contractor CIS handling
- Exposure to debt
Management of contractors is arguably the largest risk and the most difficult to control. This is due to the fact that even if all of the documents are collated and verified, contractors may work outside of their insurances. An example of this would be a contractor accredited to landscaping, being asked to carry out fabric repair works whilst on site. This would not be picked up by the procurement team but would signify a genuine risk to the client should the tradesman or member of the public suffer injury.
Thank goodness we didn’t have any really cold weather, the floods were enough to manage. At the end of the day, property and facilities managers have a lot of balls to juggle – they just need to be safe in the knowledge that should anything occur at any of their sites, there is someone on hand (and who has been pre-approved), to manage the issue at stake.
Plus, it is all about planning, planning and more planning – to ensure all eventualities are properly covered.
Tips on preparing for next Winter, and protecting your property:
- Start planning now – consider the worst case scenarios and plan for them. And think about when is the best time to undertake this work – plan it into a seasonal calendar.
- Pothole damage – the summer months present the best time to fill in and repair pot holes. This needs to be done when the ground is dry and there is no threat of rain.
- Pointing – again, waiting for the dryer and warmer months is a good time to re-point brickwork and flashings. This is the safest time for contractors to get up onto roofs also.
- Gutters – the best time to clear out gutters is immediately after the leaves have fallen, usually around late October of early November.
- External lighting – aim to check and repair all external light, for example in car parks or building entrances during late summer, to ensure that when the days draw in, the lighting is working to full effect.