How to Plan for Winter as a Facility Manager

Avoid liability and save big on energy consumption!

As the United Kingdom moves into winter, Voltix Services looks at how energy consumption changes going into the cold months. As logic dictates, winter requires more energy consumption than summer, especially in the evenings. In fact, the average household uses 36% more energy during the day between December and February in the UK.

However, research has shown that 30% of facility managers fail to plan accordingly for this period. In 2012, UK Plc estimated a 318 million pound loss of revenue due to business closures via snow. The idea is that much of this could have been avoided if businesses were better prepared.

Why do we use more energy in winter?

Well, there are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious is to stay warm. Research shows that energy fluctuations occur based on human activities during the day. This includes heating machines, increased usage of appliances, more television activity and others.

A look at 2017 by the numbers

It turns out that energy production is on a slight rise. Total energy production was 0.4 percent higher than in 2016. This is the third increase in as many years and stems from a rise in output for bioenergy, wind, solar and hydro. Coal, nuclear and oil actually fell in output.

The interesting factor in 2017 statistics though, has to do with temperature and gas usage. 2017 was, on average, warmer than 2016 by 0.3 degrees. This resulted in 1.9% less gas output, proving a somewhat distinct correlation between annual temperatures and the use of this energy source.

So what can facility managers do in winter?

Well, firstly, a winter maintenance plan should be in place. This is a critical part of any organisation’s health and safety policy. This plan should include the following:

  • Clear processes and procedures with allocated responsibility for an overseer and subordinates.
  • Specific tasks for individuals who are correctly and fully trained to carry out these tasks
  • Detailed specifications for hazardous sites
  • Clearance and gritting instructions for each site
  • Risk assessments and avoidance method statements for each site
  • Monitoring of the plan for the duration of winter
  • Performance measurements against key performance indicators
  • This plan should be reviewed, edited and criticised at the beginning and end of each winter season – October and April.
  • Maintenance plans for winter vehicles and equipment
  • Procurement and maintenance of supplies like clearance equipment, salt and grit bins and others
  • Most importantly, procedures for communication to all staff of the correct and safest actions in case of emergencies

But there is also a checklist that facility managers can use to make sure that they are fully prepared for the coming cold.

  1. It is imperative that your winter safety procedures are integrated into a recognisable health and safety management system such as OHSAS18001 or HS(G)65 Successful Health and Safety Management.
  2. Send your winter maintenance plan to your insurer and broker.
    1. This will help ensure that you have covered all areas of liability under your policy.
    2. This could actually be used to see if your plan has a positive impact on your premiums too.
    3. An effective winter maintenance plan should make it difficult for your insurer to deny any injury claims.
    4. It is estimated that about 50% of FMs forget to consult their insurer.
  3. Conduct a full accident investigation if an accident occurs on snow or ice or as a result of snow and ice.
    1. Identify the root cause of the incident
    2. Review whether your plan procedures were sufficient
    3. Demonstrate that you did all that is reasonably expected of you
  4. Maintain records proving that you have delivered your winter maintenance plan
    1. Keep these for at least 3 years.
    2. It is estimated that 40% of facilities have one to two ‘slips’ or related accidents each year. Stay covered against claims.

Preparing for different facility areas

Although all facilities are different, there are some generic guidelines you can follow to avoid any major winter damage!


Flat roofs:

  • These require constant scheduled maintenance. Repairing the flat roof membranes and seams before winter begins is imperative, so that the cold does not compromise your ability to perform such tasks. Identify the areas where water accumulates to avoid ice or heavy snow piling up during winter.
  • Consider an ice and snow removal plan to avoid compromising the integrity of the roof and structure, especially when fast warm-ups can cause a large amount of standing water.
  • Inspect the roof every week.
  • Sweep up debris.
  • Check tar seals and repair when necessary.
  • Keep drainage channels clear, and have the necessary tools to pump water off the roof.
  • Check that flashings are secure and flush.


Slanted Roofs:

  • Slanted roofs are made from different materials which cause different wintry issues. Correctly sealing your slanted roof is the most important imperative.
  • Check all shingles and roof vents.
  • Make sure the edge of the roof is waterproof and sealed against drafts.
  • Install and check icebreakers for the protection of the public.
  • Trim any trees or branches which could impair the integrity of the roof.



  • Gutters control drainage and are critical to proper winter maintenance plans.
  • Clean your gutters thoroughly and make sure all debris is gone and drainage channels are clear.
  • Test your gutters before and during winter every week.
  • Make sure the outflow is aimed away from the building’s foundation to avoid compromising the building integrity.


Foundations, Mold and Moisture

  • Avoid water seepage reaching interior walls through adequate ventilation
  • Completely dry areas affected by moisture collection or seepage
  • Mildew affects air quality and can severely impact the health and safety of employees


Snow and Ice Removal

  • Due to weather fluctuations, it is important to stay on top of what is occurring outside and prevent slips and falls due to black ice
  • Provide clear instructions on snow removal for your staff
  • Keep safety as the number 1 priority
  • Have adequate deicing materials and equipment on hand
  • Always deice walkways prior to storms and intense weather
  • Make sure there are floor mats at transitional areas so that people can wipe their shoes and avoid accidents
  • Have storage areas assigned for excess snow
  • Conduct your inspections at peak foot traffic periods, when ice forms and when people come in and out of the building


Entrances and Exits

  • Be wary of air drafts affecting the quality of air inside your facility
  • Consider tenting entrances and exits


Power Loss and Surges

  • Ensure you have all of the power surge protectors you need, especially in data-sensitive facilities
  • Encourage the employees or companies to back up their files off-site with real-time, cloud-based storage


Winter Fire Safety

  • Get your electrical contractors to run all of the necessary tests on connections from the input source to the building
  • Check all of the wiring throughout the building as well as loads placed on outlets, panels and equipment
  • Run daily checks to prevent storage of flammable materials, which includes cloths and solvent-soaked items
  • Ensure that all people in the building are educated in fire escape procedures and fire drills
  • Have visible fire escape plans and clearly marked exits
  • Inventory and check all fire extinguishers on a regular basis
  • Ensure that your fire response equipment is always functioning safely, including value houses, water tanks, pump houses and other supplies – don’t let them freeze over
  • Check fire protection tanks daily to avoid freezing


Sprinkler Systems

  • Map out your dry pipe and wet pipe sprinkler systems, noting low point drains
  • Protect your wet pipe systems from cold air to avoid freezing


Mobile equipment

  • This includes mowers, carts, lawn implements and more – most of which are dormant in winter
  • Drain old fuel from the machines
  • Store them in a low-humidity environment
  • Make sure all snow blowers are checked and operating well
  • Inspect the oil levels on all of your equipment – even those in storage


Gas Lines and Connections

  • There is always a risk of ignition in natural gas lines and connections
  • Install corrosion-free underground gas lines to avoid and prevent metallic pipe breakdown and eliminate underground pipe threads
  • Install gas lines in tight places with flexible gas risers to respond to frost, preventing gas leaks and/or explosions


How can Voltix Services help me?

Voltix Services provides a wide range of facility maintenance services, especially when it comes to compliance testing and safety auditing. Let Voltix Services assist you in your preparation for winter by calling in for a full range assessment of your facility, allowing you to make the best possible choices for the health and safety of those around you!


“Winter Risk Management Guidance” Published by the British Institute of Facilities Management in association with GRITIT, October 2017