Predictions on the severity of this year's winter conditions may be as diverse as the British weather itself, but what remains certain is that businesses need to plan ahead for every eventuality.
According to materials handling solutions provider Briggs Equipment, the fact that some of the worst conditions can strike when companies - particularly in the retail and logistics industries - are at their busiest makes forward planning all the more difficult.
"Of course, most businesses will already have effective plans in place to meet the Christmas rush," explained Gavin Wickham, operations director. "However, before these plans swing into action there are a few additional checks they need to make to ensure the risks posed by unforeseen events - including the weather - are kept to a minimum."
The performance and reliability of even the very best forklifts or other pieces of materials handling equipment can be compromised by extreme weather, particularly snow and ice.
Although this is not a problem the UK faces every year, and rarely for more than a few days, failing to take any practical precautions can cost thousands, and not just in terms of lost productivity and penalties for failing to fulfil orders.
"As firms prepare for the seasonal rush, it's easy for operators to overlook some simple maintenance checks - leaving them open to some potential problems when they may be at their busiest," Wickham said.
"There are some obvious checks, such as inspecting tyres, that many firms will have done already but there are other vital truck components they need to consider.
"Hoses that connect various hydraulic elements of the lifting system should also be checked at regular intervals as they naturally work loose over time.
"Tightening them up is a relatively simple process and is certainly a worthwhile thing to do now as they will be subject to intense pressure over the next few months. Failing to spot a loose connection could lead to a serious, but totally avoidable failure."
Wickham also advises the following checks:
- Make sure the coolant system in diesel engine trucks has a suitable concentration of anti-freeze
- Ensure oil and other lubricants are kept topped up to keep the truck running smoothly in the cold
- Check that the service schedule on all trucks is up to date and carry out daily checks on significant components
- Ensure that operators know how to use the equipment safely in adverse conditions and provide adequate training if necessary
However, it's not just the trucks themselves that need a health check; the operating environment should also be inspected before winter sets in.
"Even a small dusting of snow can hide pot holes and other hazards which can cause significant damage to a truck, so it's important to identify, and preferably repair, any flooring defects before winter sets in," adds Wickham.
"Of course, it also pays to have a plan in place to remove snow and ice from operational areas and run through it with staff to make sure it can be implemented quickly and effectively should snow put in an appearance this year."