Winter has well and truly arrived and with it lots of cold properties to inventory!
As a hands on inventory provider I dread the cold winter months as properties are sometimes colder inside than out! And with the reduced sunlight you are often rushing around trying to fit in the jobs before its too dark to see your shoes!
HS Direct has posted a helpful blog on how to manage working in cold conditions however its not so easy for an inventory clerk as our work requires us to be out about visiting properties no matter what the weather.
But what are your responsibilities to your clerks and team members?
During extreme and dangerous weather it is essential that you have good lines of communication with both your clerks and your clients as they too can have issues with getting into work so its very useful to call ahead when the snow is falling or there is ice on the roads.
- Keep an eye on local weather forecasts and updates
- Check that appointments are going ahead the day before or on the morning of the scheduled reports
- Where possible rearrange the date and or time to allow clerks enough time so they don't feel compelled to rush about
- Check (where possible) if the heating is on at the property and if not ask if it can be turned on (properties should be heated during void periods to help prevent pipes from bursting)
Have in place contact numbers for all your staff whether they are employed or self employed just so that if they are overdue for an appointment or late in getting home you have the means to make sure they are ok and or manage any issues as they arise.
Prepare & Plan
Always start your planning for the winter months the same way as you plan for the busy summer periods. That way you can forecast absences and or issues that may impact your schedules.
- Look at your annual leave requests to see how many staff you have and may need
- Look back at previous years to see where the dips and rises of report numbers are so you can proactively recruit
- Use Workstreams to manage any overflow or plug gaps in your staffing levels
- Develop a 'bad weather' policy so that your staff, clerks and clients all understand the process if you need to change or cancel bookings at short notice
Health & Safety
Slips, trips and falls are a very real problem for inventory clerks as we mostly work alone so its vital to be able to summon immediate help.
- Make sure all clerks have an 'in case of emergency' contact number (ICE) as their first number in their contacts for use by emergency services
- Advise all your clerks to have appropriate footwear for the weather, warm clothing, gloves plus a warm drink and snacks to keep them going
- Advise your clerks to take regular breaks and book enough time between appointments so they are not rushing and putting their safety and others at risk
- When entering properties remind clerks to take an old towel to wipe feet on or mop up any water from snow or ice to avoid any slips and potential claims for cleaning / damage from the client plus its good manners to clean up after yourself!
- Remind staff to check that their vehicles are fuelled; have screen wash, breakdown contact numbers and warm clothing
Properties are at risk of burst pipes during the cold winter months so advise your letting agent and landlords to check that their boilers or heating supply is working and has been regularly serviced.
We always advise our clients to:
- Regularly inspect or have the property checked during void periods
- Have the heating set to come on regularly throughout the day / night so that tenants are kept warm and happy (and clerks!)
- Keep outside areas clutter free and clean to avoid slips and falls especially if covered in snow so provide appropriate salt or clearing tools like snow shovels
Above all else; just be sensible and don't put yourself, your staff, clerks and self employed clerks and contractors at risk during hazardous weather.