With winter weather comes property and casualty risks that every business owner should consider. From common issues to more unexpected factors, owners and their teams should be proactive in evaluating their property and operations for potential trouble and working to mitigate all risks to the greatest extent possible. Empowered with an effective plan, every business can better identify and alleviate trouble before it happens.

Slips, trips and falls

Slick, snowy and icy surfaces make for one of the most common cold-season risks: slips, trips and falls. Although the subject may seem mundane, it’s difficult to overstate the risks of slippery surfaces both inside and outside your facility to your customers, employees and anyone else setting foot on your property. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, falls are the top reason for emergency room visits for injuries1, and 27% of all nonfatal work injuries that caused employees to miss days are related to slips, trips and falls.2

Slips, trips and falls are the most common workers’ compensation claim in the U.S. It’s important to note that even if an employee slips and becomes injured on your property while coming and going from work, they may have a valid claim.

Action items: Wintertime means being highly diligent in inspecting your property inside and out for slip hazards. Managers should walk the facility on a regular basis and document weather conditions, any potential issues and all work done to mitigate the risks.

Indoors, this means looking for standing water and other hazards, placing appropriate warning signage and using slip-resistant mats, fans and other tools to keep surfaces dry, along with cleaning periodically.

Outdoors, be sure to keep a cleared-and-salted log to document when the property is shoveled, plowed and treated with salt or chemicals. Also, have a plan to identify areas at risk for thawing and refreezing, an issue that is often overlooked in winter and early spring.

Employee education is also key. Teams must be trained to alert management to slip-and-fall hazards and use slip-resistant footwear that’s appropriate to their tasks. Installing cameras on your property can also help you keep track of potential problem areas and document any problems that do occur.

Property damage

Excessive snow and ice can pose serious risks to your facilities, so it’s important to watch and listen for warning signs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency notes red flags to notice including sagging ceilings and popping sounds.3 Water damage is another key risk posed by issues such as leaks, floods, thawing snow, ice, burst pipes and other problems.

Action items: Knowledge is power, so it’s vital to understand the stress winter weather can have on your buildings. Very wet, heavy snow can weigh as much as 24 pounds per cubic foot.4 Of course, snow forms drifts, which can put even more stress on specific parts of a structure.

Snow removal is an option but should only be handled by trained professionals to avoid property damage or personal injury.

To avoid water damage to internal infrastructure from burst pipes and the like, have your property inspected regularly and pay close attention to maintaining adequate heat. Also keep in mind during these times of COVID-19 that property insurance policies often have exclusions for vacant and unoccupied buildings or failure to maintain heat.

Vehicle risks

Poor weather and vehicles can be a dangerous combination. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that more than one in five vehicle crashes is weather related. And among those, nearly half involve snow, ice, sleet and/or slush.5

Fortunately, there are many straightforward precautions a business can take to mitigate the risks of winter driving.

Action items: Tire management is one of the critical components of safe winter driving. Make certain that all drivers maintain proper tire pressure, especially when temperatures fluctuate. It’s also important to ensure all tires – including spares – have much more than the minimum legal tread depth.

Many fleets operating in harsh climates use winter-specific snow tires. These generally operate more effectively than so called all-season tires because they are made of softer compounds and have more aggressive tread patterns to add traction.

Operators driving four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles should be reminded that while they may perform well in snow or slush, they are not designed for driving on ice. Extreme caution should be used in icy conditions.

In general, company drivers should be trained to slow down and be wary when confronted with adverse driving conditions. A late delivery is always preferable to an accident. If an incident occurs, every driver should have a copy of a standardized incident report in their vehicle to record all pertinent information immediately at the scene.

In conclusion, winter weather can pose many hazards to your business. But with foresight and attentiveness, you can minimize the risks of the season and operate with more peace of mind.

For more information or to speak with an insurance specialist, call 1-800-716-8314.

Disclosures

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhamcs/web_tables/2017_ed_web_tables-508.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/injury/fastfacts.html
  3. https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/fema_snow_load_2014.pdf
  4. https://www.amherstnh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4116/f/uploads/reduce-the-risk-of-roof-collapse-from-snow-and-ice-buildup.pdf
  5. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.

M&T Insurance Agency, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of M&T Bank.

Insurance Products offered are: Not FDIC insured; Not a deposit in, obligation of, nor insured by any federal government agency; Not guaranteed or underwritten by the bank; Not a condition to the provisions or terms of any banking service or activity.

Insurance products are offered by M&T Insurance Agency, Inc., not by M&T Bank. Insurance policies are obligations of the insurers that issue the policies.  Insurance products may not be available in all states.

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