Businesses must prepare for harsh winter weather conditions or face potentially huge bills to fix damaged properties.

Martin Pitchford, said escape of water – whether it was caused by plumbing issues, burst or blocked pipes, or freezing temperatures – was a business owner’s worst winter nightmare.

"Insurers pay out a massive £930 million in water-related claims each year, and while other commercial property insurance claims are decreasing, escape of water claims are definitely on the rise."

Mr Pitchford said frozen and burst pipes caused untold damage to premises and many working days were lost due to water leaks inside business premises.

"A small leak can easily become a major burst destroying equipment, floors and ceilings, with everything from stock, machinery, tools and computers being ruined beyond repair. So check your premises thoroughly before the worst weather hits because even with insurance, the stresses on a business caused by water leaks could prove devastating."

Mr Pitchford suggested if the premises are left unattended particularly over weekends, there were several steps which should be taken.

"Keep your heating system on as though it’s business as usual, but just turn down the thermostat – this will ensure that even in freezing conditions, the heating will come on preventing the water in your pipes from freezing and eventually bursting.

"Make sure your pipes and the loft are insulated as this will help stop pipes freezing and bursting in areas most at risk from the cold such as outside walls and unheated areas.

"And if a member of staff or security company is responsible for keeping an eye on the premises over any shut-down periods, make sure they know where the stopcock is in case they have to turn off the mains water supply in a jury.  

"Have a clear plan worked out for what you’d do if there is a water leak and make sure all key contact telephone numbers are available for anyone taking care of your premises.

"Business owners can make sure they are ready in case the worst should happen if they prepare their premises in advance and so protect their company from disastrous consequences."