Safety tips for business owners to prepare you for the silly season
The festive season is only a few weeks away and shopping malls have already begun spreading December cheer with music and sparkly, colourful decorations. As South Africans, we like to get into the holiday spirit well in advance and start slowing down right about now!
However, the three months before the country basically shuts down for the summer holiday are usually the busiest time of the year for retailers and hospitality enterprises. They must be at the top of their game during this crucial period and maximise their profits to make provision for the lean months early in the new year.
Delivery services are also under immense pressure to expedite their service to make these seasonal businesses shine, and passenger transport services are fully engaged in getting holidaymakers to their destinations safely. Administrators are consolidating and we are rushing to attend to year-end figures.
It is a madhouse!
To top the busyness in business, every company in our country is faced with specific risks over the December holiday period, such as higher incidences of theft, burglary, armed robberies and road accidents.
For companies on the road (delivery services, passenger operators and transporters) the festive period means higher risks on our roads due to speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, more vehicles on the roads and drivers not understanding how a vehicle performs in certain conditions because of route changes.
To help you prepare for the silly season, we compiled handy risk management hints and tips to minimise potential losses.
Top 10 tips for ROAD USERS
- Make sure your motor cover includes the territories that you will be visiting if you are travelling outside of South Africa.
- Transporting passengers? Make sure your passenger liability discs dates are valid so that you don’t get questioned on the validity of your insurance if you get pulled over.
- Check that your licenses have not expired and renew them before December.
- Remind your drivers about the importance of taking regular breaks.
- Have your emergency roadside assistance numbers handy should the need arise.
- Ensure that all your vehicles are insured.
- Make sure that your vehicle is roadworthy by checking tyres, brakes, indicators and all lights.
- Remember, don’t admit liability to a third party when in an accident as you may prejudice the insurer’s rights. Obtain all the details of the third party and ask your broker to assist further. Keep your broker’s contact details near!
- Make sure your vehicle is locked. Don’t become a victim of remote jamming.
- Don’t leave your valuables in your car and at all costs avoid it being visible to anyone.
5 Top tips for protecting your BUSINESS PREMISES
If you are closing shop for the holidays, these precautionary measures will help to protect your business premises.
- Always keep your business premises locked and make sure that the alarm system is in working order and linked to an armed response service.
- Test the alarm with your response company before you leave and make sure you have battery backup to make provision for power failures.
- Switch off and unplug all non-essential appliances to prevent electrical fires or power surge damage.
- Get someone to collect your mail and make sure there is movement around the property.
- Leave bright lights on both in- and outside.
Tips for doing BUSINESS ONLINE
More and more consumers are turning to online stores to do their holiday shopping to avoid the maddening crowds in malls. This means that there is an increased need for online security measures.
If your business is in any way online, install extra security measures to secure your own and your clients’ sensitive information. Hackers scout for ways to steal card details, personal information and even cash or merchandise.
If you are doing any business online, here are a few tips:
- Make sure nobody knows your passwords and make use of security authentication methods.
- Back up your data.
- Never allow your computer to save your passwords.
- Don’t give out your business or personal bank login details over the phone.
- Keep watch over your credit card to spot fraudulent transactions the moment they happen.
- Ask your broker to help you with CYBERCRIME INSURANCE
Our best tips for RETAILERS
Big crowds and increased stock lead to the temptation for theft. By improving your security measures, you can deter and prevent burglaries, as well as annoy potential shoplifters.
- Install clearly visible security cameras to act as a deterrent. Make sure they work, and that footage is backed up. It can also assist any insurance claims.
- Consider installing a silent alarm that can alert a security company instantly in the event of a robbery.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers for the local police station, ambulance, etc., which is visible to all staff.
- Rotate your security guards and vet them regularly.
- Use a reputable security company with a proven track record.
- Remind employees that they must be more aware of their environment and pay more attention to the people around them.
- If a suspicious-looking person is hanging around at closing time, don’t hesitate to call a security guard or police non-emergency line.
- Make shoppers aware that you don’t allow open bags. Tape bags with tape that you provide. Avoid storing any bags for your customers.
- Keep everything visible throughout your store and make sure everyone can see the front door. Eliminate hidden areas and shelves where someone can hide. Improve visibility from the outside peering in.
- Allow only one open entrance and keep all back doors locked. Use these exits only for emergencies.
- Don’t be gullible and believe everyone. Anyone can shoplift or steal from you.
Cash is king
In the mind of criminals, the holiday season is a time to steal. Restaurants and smaller business that are cash-intensive are prime targets for thieves carrying out underhanded assignments.
- Develop policies and procedures explicitly addressing robberies and inform your employees. Make sure they know how important it is for them to give up the money and not to resist or attempt to stop the theft. Employees should also be trained to take precautions not to pre-empt a possible robbery.
- Install clearly visible security cameras to act as hindrance for criminals. To assist and speed up insurance claims, make sure they are working, and footage is backed up.
- Installing a silent alarm can alert a security company immediately in the event of a robbery. Have an emergency number on quick dial.
- Don’t flaunt cash, tips or bank deposit bags in front of customers or other employees unless they have banking responsibilities.
- Always attend to cash registers!
- Make deposits during daylight and busier hours and dedicate someone to this role that you can trust.
- Have more than one person working in all shifts, especially during opening and closing.
- Even if the doors are locked, do not count any cash in the open!
- Rotate the days and times when you schedule cash-in-transit pick-ups or make bank deposits from your premises to remain unpredictable to criminals.
- To minimise the actual cash in your registers, use drop safes that allows you to make periodic drops during the day.
- Active your alarm at night.
- All cash not banked, should be in a safe at night and make sure you comply with the allowable limits and safety requirements of your policy.
Safety tips for businesses in the HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
It is of utmost importance to take the necessary security measures to see to the safety of your guests if you are in the hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants, lodges, BnBs, travel agents, and adventure and tour operators.
- Provide guests with an easy set of instructions which includes emergency numbers and information about how the alarm works and why it is crucial.
- Have you thought of the possible injury and death suffered by a guest in your premises?
- What happens if your guests steal your property?
- Do you have cover for repairs to your property?
- Make sure you comply with all the health and safety regulations.
- Make sure your policy extends to provide cover for your guests when their possessions are stolen.
- Ask your broker to assist you by working through your policy in detail and understand the options for extending your cover.
How to reduce THEFT BY EMPLOYEES
Employee theft is a big problem during the holidays. But more than just merchandise theft, employees have access to other significant assets (like cash) too. The need for money means that the holidays don’t only provide extra opportunity but an additional motive for trying out theft.
- Don’t keep large amounts with you in-store and bank regularly, but not visibly.
- Keep money in an approved safe.
- Make sure your policy covers the increased stock and cash.
- Make provision for FIDELITY COVER
Tips on how to reduce LEGAL CLAIMS against your business
- Ensure signage and disclaimers are visible and easy to understand to limit injuries in hazardous areas.
- High-risk areas should be closed off and off-limits for customers. This should be adequately communicated on signage. Use signs indicating “Employees Only” for backrooms and storage areas.
- Fix up broken tiles and slippery surfaces before customers get injured.
- Indemnity forms can protect your business and serve as a further warning to customers and guests informing them of the risks they undertake. These indemnities may not guarantee successful defense but improve your chances of a successful case.
- Train your employees well to become experts in their fields, from cleaning and janitorial employees. The slightest mistakes can lead to injuries or other risks. Inexperienced employees may make your business more vulnerable.
Maintain a SAFE WORKPLACE
Good housekeeping and practices can protect employees and customers.
- Choose your decorations wisely as certain materials may increase your fire risk or self-combust.
- Don’t cover exit signs with decorations or overcrowded aisles that will make it difficult for consumers to escape the building in the event of an emergency.
- Maintain appropriate inventory levels. Overstocked storage areas can lead to the stock falling on customers.
Our top tips for MACHINERY BREAKDOWN
The last thing you need is machinery breaking down if your business is reliant on machines, electronics and kitchen equipment to produce more orders than usual.
- Service essential machinery and equipment in advance to avoid breakdowns.
- Take out MACHINERY BREAKDOWN cover.
- Think about where you’ll move stock in case of an emergency or rent a backup machine to help you cope with orders.
WORKPLACE ACCIDENTS are prevalent this time of year
The festive season means crazy deadlines, long hours and superhuman beings. There is a rise in workplace accidents when people rush to meet deadlines.
- Remind your employees to get everything done in time.
- Ask your employees not to cut corners and stick to safety protocols.
- Give temporary staff proper induction to get them up to speed and avoid injury.
- Speak to your broker about the adequacy of your BUSINESS INTERRUPTION cover.
The WEATHER can wreak havoc
Our unpredictable South African weather is something to consider during the festive season. Heavy winds, storms, hail or flooding may mean you need to take extra precautions to protect your assets.
We’ve seen more frequent patterns in severe hailstorms over the last couple of years resulting in broken windows, dented motor vehicles and damaged roof tiles.
Here are our best tips for bad weather.
- Have contact numbers for emergency services close at hand.
- Listen to weather and news alerts to stay informed of any storm developments.
- Stay indoors or seek shelter when you become aware of a possible storm. Avoid travelling in storms. Instead, wait for the weather to subside before getting on the road.
- Doing proper maintenance of buildings may assist in preventing damage. Fix any damaged assets as soon as possible.
- On the roads, keep a safe following distance and stay up to date with your vehicle maintenance. Small things make the most significant difference so ensure windscreen wipers are fully functional and that both headlights and brake lights work. Make sure your tyres’ tread is compliant to avoid sliding on slippery roads.
- Avoid driving in hail at all. Rather drive into the nearest sheltered parking facility. A thick blanket in your boot to cover your car can also prevent a great deal of damage.
- Do not risk getting swept away in flood. Never drive through low water bridges in heavy rain or any large bodies of water.
You need a PERSONALISED POLICY for your business
Every business is different, and no standard policy could cater for all individual requirements. All companies need a personalised insurance policy where your broker has conducted a full needs analysis. Business owners should contact their brokers and legal advisors to double check that they have adequate cover and adhere to the regulations specifically relevant to their industry and have everything in place before the madness of the silly season starts.
Now it is time for YOU!
Once you have attended to all your business risks, look after yourself! Many small business owners hardly ever take leave. It is vital to consider the occasional break even if it means just taking some time out at home. Your business needs you in tip top condition!
- Book your holiday in advance to get the best deal but also prepare your business and wrap up any loose ends.
- Communicate your holiday dates to your customers and suppliers in advance. Repeat this communication on your social media and emails (out of office replies).
- Pay everyone before you leave so that you reduce the number of complaints received before you go away.
- Leave work behind and wrench yourself entirely or at least restrict the times you check work emails online. A holiday is not a holiday if you are always available to your business.
- Leave the guilt behind and reconnect with the people that are important to you and that you care about dearly! Recharge and refresh yourself so that you can give your best when you get back. You may find that you come back with fresh creative ideas and strategies and renewed love and enthusiasm for your business.
- Have fun!
Article written by Yolande van Niekerk