From slippery steps to frozen pipes, the season presents a unique set of challenges. But fear not, proactive planning can transform winter from a frosty foe into a well-managed friend.
1. Embrace the Comprehensive Checklist
Create a comprehensive winter preparedness checklist. This detailed document should address every aspect of your building, from exterior maintenance and emergency protocols, to who is responsible for each task. Include tasks like:
- Inspect and maintain snow removal equipment. If you hire a snow removal service, make sure your contract is in place, and verify your contract terms such as timeframes and snow removal criteria with the provider’s management.
- Schedule roof snow removal and gutter cleaning.
- Ensure proper sealing of doors and windows to prevent drafts.
- Test heating systems.
- Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Equipment used to keep your building warm will be working overtime during winter months, leading to an increased risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Consider stocking emergency supplies and safety equipment like blankets, first-aid kits, non-perishable food, and bottled water.
- Establish communication protocols for weather emergencies.
Sharing this checklist with your team ensures everyone is on the same page and responsibilities are clear.
2. Prevent Snow and Ice-Related Slip and Falls
Icy exteriors and snowdrifts pose a major hazard to pedestrian and employee safety. Proactive measures are key!
- Inspect gutters, sprinklers, and water systems around parking lots and pedestrian walkways. Run gutter systems and downspouts away from walkways and parking lots to avoid potential slip hazards as water freezes.
- Have a procedure for removing and treating ice and snow from parking lots and pedestrian walkways. Clear walkways and entryways regularly and apply de-icing materials. If ice accumulation is too difficult to remove, place conspicuous warning signs around the hazard.
- Install sturdy handrails and maintain proper lighting around potential slip-and-fall areas on your commercial property.
- Place mats inside entrances to trap melting snow and debris. Make sure employees change out the mats regularly to prevent oversaturation.
- Communicate snow removal policies and procedures to employees so that everyone knows their role.
- Make sure employees are wearing appropriately safe footwear for their job responsibilities and the conditions.
3. Keeping the Heat On
A warm and functional work environment is crucial for both comfort and productivity. Prioritize your heating system and ensure the system still runs even when the business is closed. If you are responsible for maintaining your commercial property, consider:
- Schedule routine maintenance for boilers, furnaces, and HVAC systems.
- Stock up on spare parts and tools for potential repairs to help prevent a business closure.
- Insulate pipes and attics to prevent freezing and to optimize energy efficiency.
4. Navigating Power Outages
Winter storms can disrupt power lines, leaving your business in the dark. Be prepared:
- Have emergency lighting and flashlights readily available. Don’t forget spare batteries!
- Charge essential devices like phones and other critical devices in advance of approaching storms.
- Prepare communication plans for customers and employees in case of power outages.
- If the exterior temperature is expected to drop below 28 degrees, slow drip all faucets in the building to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Indoor temperatures will quickly drop during a power outage.
5. Embracing Communication and Awareness
Effective communication is vital during winter weather.
- Monitor weather forecasts and issue timely warnings to employees and customers about potential storms and closures.
- Host winter safety training sessions for staff, promoting safe practices and emergency protocols.
6. Check Your Insurance Coverage
Proper insurance coverage is crucial for businesses that face winter threats. It can save your business from bankruptcy if your store or business is forced to close during a winter-related event. Review your policy for:
Business Interruption or Loss of Business Income Coverage
Businesses Interruption coverage applies only to limited circumstances that may cause a location to cease operations, but when it applies, this coverage can help replace lost revenue.
If an employee is injured due to a winter-related event, this coverage helps pay costs associated with their work-related injury such as strains, sprains, and contusions.
General Liability Limits and Deductibles
General Liability covers claims brought by others, such as customers or suppliers, who incur property damage or bodily injury caused by the negligence of your business or an employee. Make sure your limits are adequate and you are comfortable with the deductible, as that will be an out-of-pocket expense if your insurance carrier has to pay on a claim. Most policies also give an option to provide a small amount of medical payments coverage, which helps pay a customer’s medical bills for any covered injury suffered on your premises, regardless of fault.
Building and Contents Limits and Deductibles
These coverages protect your building, inventory, equipment, signage, and business property in the event of a covered loss such as a sudden roof collapse due to snow accumulation, wind damage, or a freezing pipe burst.
By embracing preparedness and clear communication, you can ensure your business thrives throughout the coldest months, keeping everyone warm, secure, and focused on success. Stay prepared, stay warm, and stay safe!