When a winter storm hits, the snow plows hit the roads while kids across the Ozarks hope for an extra day off from school.
But for your business, wintry precipitation can also lead to costly insurance claims.
- There’s an increased risk of people slipping and falling on slick surfaces.
- You’re more likely to suffer water damage should frozen pipes burst.
Here are some winter safety tips for the workplace to protect your business from the risk of these claims as you get through another season of extreme winter weather.
Slip and Fall Prevention During Winter Weather
In 2014, there were more than 10 million emergency room visits due to falls of some kind, accounting for 25.1% of ER visits due to an injury.
During the same year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 42,000 workplace injuries due to ice, sleet or snow that required at least one missed work day.
The Hartford notes that slip and fall accidents are more common during the winter, so it’s especially important to use extra caution when cold weather hits.
- Prepare ahead of time.
- Before the mercury drops, your employees should be educated on how to inspect for hazardous conditions which could cause a customer or worker to slip, trip or fall, as well as how to correct these conditions.
- Pay attention to weather reports so that you aren’t caught by surprise. If wintry conditions are imminent, begin treating exposed surfaces ahead of time to minimize icing that must be cleaned up later.
- Be prompt with snow and ice removal. Whether you hire a contractor or do the work yourself, early surface treatment is the best way to avoid excessive icing, along with quick removal once the precipitation starts falling.
- Treat all exterior areas where pedestrian traffic is expected.
- Walkways should be pitched to avoid ice collecting on them.
- All walkways must be free of ice, snow and other debris.
- Make sure the parking lot is clear of ice.
- Don’t just fix and forget it. Continue inspecting and treating icy areas until the winter weather event is over.
- Make sure your vendor has insurance. What if you hire someone to remove snow and ice and one of their workers gets hurt? Before hiring any contractor, request that they provide you a certificate of insurance.
- Use caution if doing the work in-house. Anyone doing snow and ice removal should have proper training and use the correct equipment, such as shovels, snow blowers, plows, sand or ice melt. Be careful around non-owned adjacent properties, as this could raise liability issues for your business.
- Don’t ignore indoor surfaces. Ice and snow get tracked in from the outside, creating wet, slippery conditions inside. Provide floor mats at the entrance to absorb water, ice and debris from people’s shoes. All floor mats must be non-slip and secured to prevent tripping. Monitor floors during a winter weather event and keep them dry and free of any debris from the outside. Put up signs to warn employees and visitors of slick conditions.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing during Winter Weather
Pipes can burst when freezing water in one section of the pipe causes an excess buildup of water pressure. This can lead to extensive water damage in areas where the failure occurs.
According to The Hartford, damage from frozen pipes costs an average of $18,000 per claim, and a study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found that 18% of all plumbing supply claims were caused by frozen pipes.
Here are some tips for preventing frozen pipes and keeping your facilities free of water damage this winter.
- Keep pipes as clear as possible. Where possible, shut off the water in areas of your facility that are prone to freezing. Drain low-point drains (drum drips) on dry-pipe sprinkler systems, and remove excess water.
- Apply heat. Some managers think it’s a good idea to shut off the heater, hoping to save on utility costs. But remember, the cost of repairing water damage is often far more expensive that the money you invest in keeping your pipes above freezing.
- The heat should stay on, especially in remote areas of your facility that are vulnerable to freezing.
- Keep the temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above in dry-pipe valve rooms, pump rooms and water tanks.
- Consider heat tracing to keep downspouts and gutters free of ice.
- Inspect areas prone to freezing. During a winter weather event, inspect gutters, drains, scuppers and downspouts. Take a look at areas where cold air could enter the building and cause frozen pipes — including windows, walls, roofs and floors. Look for and correct insulation and heat tracing deficiencies.
- Write it down. Keep maintenance records so that, in the event of a claim, you can prove that you have kept up with maintenance requirements.
In addition, make sure you have adequate insurance to cover any claims that should arise because of a winter weather event.