Winter priorities for ground maintenance

Ground maintenance teams need to be prepared for all seasons, but winter can often bring its own set of unique challenges. With short, cold days and long spells of inclement weather, pragmatic and structured planning is crucial to ensure operations continue as efficiently and as safely as ever. Here are some important considerations:

Climate control

First, there’s mitigation against the prevailing weather conditions – not least because there’s a legal duty to keep workplaces and visitors safe. When ice or snow is forecast, access routes can be revised and modified by covering walkways or using slip-resistant flooring. When the snow has fallen it will need to be cleared from paths and roads. Gritting schedules and supplies will need to be rolled out and utilised when surfaces freeze over.

Winters in the UK are getting warmer, wetter and windier which brings a different set of hazards. 2024 began with widespread flooding across the UK and windy conditions will blow trees, branches and potentially dangerous objects to the ground. A thorough risk assessment and inspection plan can not only pre-empt these occurrences, but also detail the required response.

Communication and safety

It’s clearly vital that everyone is confident and knowledgeable about their responsibilities when it comes to maintaining business as usual during challenging winter conditions. And clear communication extends to customers and visitors too.

Staff also need to be prepared in terms of their equipment and workwear. In this age of unpredictable weather patterns, it’s crucial that ground maintenance teams are kitted out in high quality PPE and workwear that’s comfortable, practical and designed to last.

Similarly, employers have a duty of care when it comes to the wellness and mental health of their staff – with many studies showing that winter can be a time when people might feel low and less enthusiastic. Keeping lines of communication open and providing support is very important to help normalise discussions around this area.

Equipment maintenance

Wintery conditions will put a lot of stress on ground maintenance equipment. Cold conditions can turn minor issues into major problems – and there’s less daylight to work with too. A winter maintenance plan – incorporating regular checks and audits – can be implemented across operations to keep equipment running at optimal levels. Specialist equipment can also be rented or leased to overcome particularly challenging periods.

But it’s also important to continue to look after kit that might be in storage during winter. Follow the usual storage protocols including cleaning and checks. If applicable, ensure that batteries are charged, fuel and oil levels are correct and that the machine is booked in for its regular service.

Estate audit

Winter can be a good time to assess resources, capability and objectives for the warmer months ahead. If winter represents an off-peak season, then additional capacity may be available to focus on internal operations such as training programmes, budget and inventory planning and marketing activity.

Keeping detailed records of the successes and challenges of ongoing winter maintenance activities ensures that the planning for next year’s winter also starts here.

Kerb appeal

Finally, it’s important to ensure aesthetic standards and visitor experience are not compromised on dark and gloomy days. Not only are people more likely to have a positive visit – and be more likely to return – they may be inspired to share their experiences on social media too. Maintaining consistent and high-quality standards during challenging weather also translates into a key competitive edge.

Every ground maintenance team faces a unique set of challenges over the winter period. The experienced and friendly team at Contego are always available to work with you to discuss your requirements and ensure workers stay safe, comfortable, protected and productive, whatever the weather. You can contact them on 0800 122 3323 or sales@contegosafety.co.uk

Published on 11 January 2024

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