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Top Six Winter Risks And How To Protect Your Business

Winter weather creates a set of risks you won’t face at any other time of the year, creating added liability exposure for your business.

With many regions already dealing with colder than usual temperatures, snowfall, and ice, now’s the time to kick your preparations into high gear. We’ve rounded up the top six weather-related issues that businesses face in the winter months, as well as steps you can take now to prepare and protect your business.

1. Risk: Trips, slips, and falls

While accumulations of snow or ice can damage property, the greater risks they pose are to your customers and employees, causing trips, slips, and falls that could result in broken bones or back injuries.

What you can do now:

  • Along with the typical shovels and snowblowers, make sure you have an adequate supply of sand or ice melt on hand for sidewalks and steps.
  • Repair any outdoor steps, handrails, and parking lot potholes.
  • Place non-slip, water-absorbing floor mats just inside doors to help keep snow and ice from being tracked in and making floors slippery.
  • If you outsource snow removal, make sure the company you hire is reputable, experienced, and can show proof of liability insurance.
  • Place tall stakes along the driveway, walkways, and around the parking lot to indicate areas to shovel, plow, or put down ice melt.

2. Risk: Frozen water pipes

Unlike homes, businesses may have spaces that are cooler and more susceptible to frozen pipes, such as warehouse areas, crawl spaces, storage facilities, etc.

What you can do now:

  • Hire a licensed professional to inspect pipes for cracks and leaks.
  • Add insulation to the walls of areas that could get below 55 degrees and protect pipes in those areas with pipe wrap insulation. Heat tape or heating cables can also be used to protect pipes but follow the manufacturers’ installation instructions and only use products approved by an independent testing organization.
  • Know where your water shut off valve is, and make sure at least two people in the building at any given time know where it is located.

3. Risk: Power outages

Winter power outages are typically caused by fallen power lines and pose more of a threat than at any other time of year due to freezing temps. Hazardous road conditions could also prevent employees from leaving a building that has no heat.

What you can do now:

  • Have a generator on hand and know how to operate it safely. Also make sure your carbon monoxide (CO) detector is working properly. Incorrect generator use can lead to CO poisoning.
  • Pack an emergency kit stocked with water, non-perishable food, flashlights, first aid supplies, cellphone chargers, and basic tools. Store it in an easy-to-reach area and share the location with employees.
  • To protect your equipment from the damage of a power outage, invest in surge protectors.

4. Risk: Damage to buildings

Outdoor areas pose new risks once the snow flies and the winds start to howl. Cleaning and fixing potential hazards now is better than discovering and cleaning up damage later in subfreezing temperatures.

What you can do now:

  • Have a roofing contractor inspect the roof for loose shingles, flashing, etc. and for any signs of structural stress on flat roofs.
  • If your structure has gutters, remove any debris. For buildings with a flat roof, rake or blow off leaves and debris.
  • Trim trees of low hanging branches near buildings and walkways that could break under the weight of snow.

5. Risk: Business interruption

The adage “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” is true in most aspects of business, and preparing for bad weather is no different. Having a business continuity plan that includes a variety of scenarios is a must-have regardless of your industry.

What you can do now:

  • If your employees can work from home, create a telecommuting policy to ensure clear expectations upfront. Also confirm that their equipment can work off-site, and they have the software access and any other necessities available.
  • Be sure your employees’ contact information is up to date and create a communication plan to determine how information is shared among employees.
  • Have a plan to redirect phones and answering systems if you must close your building.
  • Keep a list of names and phone numbers for your HVAC professional, local city/municipal emergency agencies, building owner or renters, and insurance agent.

6. Risk: Inadequate insurance coverage

While we can take every precaution to prepare our business and minimize risks, accidents do happen. It’s vital to ensure your business has adequate coverage in place to protect it in the event of a claim.

What you can do now:

  • Set up a meeting with your insurance agent or broker to review your current policies and limits and ensure you have the proper coverage in place.
  • With regards to winter risks specifically, be sure to discuss your General Liability and Workers’ Compensation policies in case of customer or employee injuries on your premises, as well as your Property and Business Interruption policies.
     

Winter weather is often unpredictable at best, and with it comes risks for your organization, regardless of location. By being proactive and diligent, you can mitigate those risks to your property, your customers, and employees.

To ensure you’re adequately protected, and to learn more VGM Insurance and our comprehensive coverage options, contact us today at 800-362-3363 or via email at info@vgminsurance.com.

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