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Winter brings with it the prospect of wet weather and plunging temperatures. To mitigate against the effects of these, retailers can take a few small but important steps to ensure their property, staff and customers stay safe throughout the winter months.

Preparing in advance and minimising your risk rather than dealing with problems after the fact will help protect your business and those around you. So what steps can you take?

Protect your premises

Roof, gutters, gullies and drains

Look out for roof damage such as cracked, broken or missing tiles, hairline cracks or loose sides on a felt flat roof and arrange any repairs before the weather turns. Keep gutters and drains clear so that rain water can drain away, and check that drain pipes are properly fixed in place. Simple maintenance such as this can help prevent future damage and can also prevent liability claims, for instance if a loose tile or guttering falls and injures a customer, staff member or other member of the public.


Escaped water is a very common claim by householders and retailers alike. There are three primary causes of this: rapid drops in temperature; poor insulation; and thermostats set too low.

Before the temperatures plummet, take the opportunity to insulate any exposed pipes in the crawl spaces and attic of your premises. Look out, too, for gaps that allow cold air to enter near where pipes are located, such as around electrical wiring and vents, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.

Before winter hits, if possible use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside your premises.

Protect your customers, staff and the general public

The British weather can be unpredictable and sleet and snow can strike at any time. Make sure you have sufficient supplies of salt or grit for paths, and that you have a shovel too. As a business owner you are liable for staff or customers who injure themselves on your premises, so it is important to take every step you can to ensure their safety. If it’s icy outside be careful to clear all access paths to prevent slips and falls.

Inside your shop, try to keep door mats flush to the door to capture any excess water or snow brought into the shop from customers’ shoes or clothing. If possible, have an employee regularly check around the shop for any puddles and make sure they are cleaned up immediately. Don’t forget to display relevant warning signs. Do try to avoid using flattened cardboard boxes as these can also slip on the floor.

Make a plan

Business continuity planning enables you to plan and anticipate likely scenarios, and makes it less likely that your business will be adversely affected by difficult situations. Take the time to consider how you will protect your staff, customers, premises and business and hopefully the unexpected will not come to pass.

Ensure you are as protected as you can be. Check your business and liability cover wordings to satisfy yourself that they are adequate for your needs, and if you are in any doubt speak to your cover provider before the unexpected occurs.

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