Is your venue ready for winter weather?

Make sure you’re prepared for the winter weather conditions, whether you run a nightclub, bar, hotel or restaurant.

You may begin preparing for the winter months well in advance but, as part of your planning, make sure you put preventative measures in place for bad weather. Snowfall, storms and heavy rain can hit any time, particularly between November-March. And extreme weather can cause significant damage to your venue or compromise your guest’s safety – leading to potential claims against your insurance.

Here are our top tips for keeping your venue claim-free this season…

Keep an eye on the weather forecast

You can’t always predict winter weather, but you can get a rough idea of what’s coming up by checking the forecast. And if bad weather is on its way, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent its impact.

If a storm’s about to hit, secure anything loose and bring outside furniture inside. You should also encourage guests not to stand in any uncovered space around your venue.

Snow and ice can present a tougher task as you can’t always see the risk. You should use plenty of grit, particularly on outdoor stairways and entrance steps. Make sure you record where and when grit has been applied so you know the whole area has been covered. You should also maintain any un-carpeted areas within your venue, as people drag in snow and water from their shoes.

But who is responsible for gritting? Technically, you’re only responsible for your own land and property. The council should make sure paths and pavements are safe for people to walk on. However, you should ensure the council have fulfilled their responsibilities and take steps to ensure your customer’s safety if they haven’t.

There are further complications if your premises is leased and you are technically a tenant. Given the uncertainty surrounding the occupancy of a property under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, landlords and tenants, should take sufficient steps to clear snow and ice. Ultimately the safety of your customers must come first and you shouldn’t pass the responsibility on if urgent action is required. Both parties, but particularly the occupier, has a “common duty of care” to ensure all visitors are reasonably safe on the premises.

Follow the advice of the Health and Safety Executive

To reduce the risk of trips and slips on ice, frost or snow, the HSE advises that a business needs to assess the risk and put a system in place to manage it. It is suggested that you should:

  • Identify any outdoor areas that are likely to be affected by ice
  • Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming
  • Keep pedestrians off slippery surfaces
  • Remove warning cones once the hazard has passed

Make regular and recorded checks of roof and gutters

Roofs and gutters are one of the areas most at risk during the winter weather. Most insurance policies will insist that roofs, and especially flat roofs, are inspected at least every two years by a qualified builder or property surveyor. If any issues are found they should be rectified immediately – you can’t just leave it until next winter!

Your guttering should also be checked every six months by a professional or trained member of the team.

Prevent frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are a big risk in winter. Your insurance policy may require you to ensure pipes are lagged and that thermostatic switches are set to activate the heating system whenever the temperature at the coolest point of the building drops below a certain temperature (normally 4c). In any case, you should make every effort to prevent your pipes from freezing!

You should also have your water tanks, apparatus or pipes adequately lagged by a qualified plumber.

If you’re trying to keep your venue toasty, you might pop out and buy some portable heaters. However, before splashing the cash, you should check your insurance policy. Some policies exclude you from using portable heating appliances other than in office areas, so make sure you don’t fill your nightclub with portable heaters! If you are using them in your office, all appliances should be PAT tested and you should make sure they’re unplugged when not in use.

Prevent injuries at your venue

Be proactive and make sure you’re able to defend against any potential injury claims. Use checklists to regularly monitor risk mitigation procedures such as glass collection, toilet cleaning and spillages. These can then be used as evidence against spurious claims.

It is useful if the checklists make a note of action taken such as cleared spillage, swept broken glass etc rather than just a simple tick in a box. A claimant has three years in which to pursue a claim, so you should retain your checklists securely for at least three years.

NDML customers have access to exclusive discounts on the intelligent due diligence software, isitchecked, that helps simplify this process.

You should also be aware of overcrowding in the winter months, particularly as guests are much less likely to mingle outside in the winter weather. Make sure your venue doesn’t go over capacity by posting an occupancy limit sign that will help door staff and management easily see what capacity needs to be enforced.

Be aware of increased stock

You might be tempted to over-order and stockpile non-perishables if you’re concerned winter weather will slow down supply chains. Or an increase in trade could lead to you needing to keep higher levels of stock. Stock is, obviously, valuable and you’ll need to review your Sums Insured and make sure your policy will cover any additional stock.

In the busy winter months you might experience an increase in takings, too. Monies not kept in a safe out of business hours may only be covered for a certain amount. You’ll also need to review your Sums Insured and make sure the amount kept in the safe is covered. If not, you’ll need to bank your takings more regularly or contact your insurer / insurance broker to see if your safe limit can be increased.

Look after your staff

Chances are, if bad weather’s on its way, you’ll be well into the festive season. Big parties and longer opening hours can create higher risk of noise exposure. Offer protective gear to help your staff, or use a rota to make sure your team aren’t working next to loud speakers for too long.

Don’t overlook security

If you’re in a rush to leave work to avoid winter weather, don’t skip over adequate security checks. You should make sure the alarm is set (and, if you think it’s been damaged or isn’t working don’t leave the premises unattended unless the issue is resolved and your insurance company has been notified).

You should continue with your day-to-day security checks no matter what the weather.

Check, and check again

Preventing damage is often a matter of common sense. You should make sure all doors and windows are fully shut and secure if you know a bit of bad weather is on its way. Check you’ve got enough grit to make the outside areas of your venue safe, and make sure staff don’t feel pressured to compromise their safety to come into work.

It sounds obvious, but keys to your safe must be removed from the venue when it’s closed for business, or locked securely in another safe. Particularly when bad weather hits and your venue may need to stay closed for a longer period of time, you should never compromise the safety of your business.

You should also be extra vigilant when it comes to slips and trips prevention. Increase the number of safety checks you undertake throughout the night. There is normally increased footfall and more events happening throughout winter so the possibility of accidents is much higher.

NDML clients have access to a risk management checklist which includes necessary precautions you need to make to mitigate risks and defend potential clams.

Are you covered for the effects of winter weather?

You should check your individual policy working carefully to make sure you’re complying with various conditions. Each policy will be different, so don’t get caught out!

Contact us if you would like to know more about how to protect your business this holiday season, or to arrange a bespoke insurance policy for your nightclub, bar, pub or night-time venue.

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