Winter Weather and Icy Conditions at Work
Unfortunately, too many businesses do not do proper planning for Mother Nature. Of those companies that have plans, even fewer of them have effective execution of their plan. Always remember that a plan is no good if it cannot actually be used in the real world. So your first step should be to come up with a realistic plan of operations for the business under adverse winter conditions.
Questions to Consider:
- What is the plan? - Write it down. A plan does not become real unless you write it down. In this digital age you do not necessarily need to have a hard copy, but it can sometimes help enforce the legitimacy of the plan to have a printed copy that can be referenced at the drop of a hat.
- Are you prepared? - Make sure you have enough salt for your sidewalks in your closet or warehouse. If you need to contract a 3rd party vendor to plow or shovel, be sure to sign those contracts months before disaster strikes. Consider having an emergency store of food or water on hand, just in case your workers need them. Get your equipment secured before the storm hits full blast; don’t wait until the last minute. Do not forget to watch for changes in weather forecasts, public transportation and school delays, and public emergency advisories.
- How many people? - Figure out what the bare minimum headcount is that you need to be able to operate safely. Try to figure out how to meet that expectation in advance. Consider having people work from home or at an off-site location.
- How will you explain it to customers and employees? - Pre-write the language for your weather advisories so you are not scrambling to put together something at the last minute. Have a web-portal, phone chain, or hotline set-up in advance to get the message out. Be consistent in your update timing before, during, and after a storm to build some reliability into the system.
- How will jobs be completed on-time? - Maybe the jobs will be completed; maybe they won’t. Consider writing language into your contracts with customers to accommodate weather delays. Be upfront with your customers by showing them your Winter Weather policies in advance so they know the conditions that are considered untenable for operations. It is suggested that you do not force employees into an unsafe condition just because a customer is unreasonable.
- When will you close? - The worst time to make the decision is after it is too late. If you wait until you have machinery freezing or breaking; workers sliding across roads or trapped at their desks; you have guaranteed a failure in your work environment and possibly invited some liability into your processes. Try to come up with a set of conditions that will always prompt closure. Build in time frames for different phases.
- When will you open? - Think about road conditions after a serious storm and what you need to do to re-start operations. Some companies may consider housing a skeleton crew at a near-by hotel to allow them to open faster after a storm. Remember the human element - Your workers may have stranded family members or closed schools. Just because you can resume operations does not always mean you should resume operations. If appropriate, consider a snow delay or remaining closed an extra day.
- What is the Practice Date? - You ought to do a dry run of your procedures and systems before the big snow emergency. None of your preparation will be useful if you cannot execute it on the day of the storm's arrival.
And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.
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