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Winter has officially settled in, and while the season normally batters northern tier states with frigid temperatures and snow, southern states are not always immune from winter’s wrath. In other words, winter weather can cause headaches for business owners no matter where they’re located as they try to keep their properties as safe as possible for employees and customers.

Cold temperatures and snow are of particular concern during winter months, each capable of causing injury to people. And, a by-product of cold and snow is the real scourge to humans outside of a hockey rink…ice.

Snow and Ice

The greatest risks snow and ice pose to your employees and customers are slips, trips, and falls, which can cause serious injuries. Removing snow and ice as soon as possible from parking lots, walkways, porches, patios, steps, and entry ways should be a priority during winter.

If your business has its own snow removal equipment, it should be inspected long before the first snow fall:

  • Shovels
  • Snow blowers/snow throwers
  • Snow plows
  • Snow rakes
  • Salt spreaders

If you outsource snow removal, make sure the company you hire is reputable, experienced, and can show proof of Liability insurance. Be specific about what you want cleared: just the parking lot, or do you want all areas where people can walk cleared as well?

Regardless of who handles your snow removal, here are a few suggestions of what you can do BEFORE the expected snow fall:

  • Place tall stakes along the driveway, walkways, and around the parking lot. These stakes show you or your snow removal company where to shovel, plow, or put down ice melt. You may know where the edges of these areas are, but your snow removal company may not.
  • Clear your parking lot of all vehicles that don’t need to be there.
  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of sand or ice melt on hand, especially for walkways, steps, porches, and patios.

Your Real Winter Enemy

Ice – whether from melted snow or rain – can be the real enemy in winter. No matter where your business is located in the U.S., you’ve no doubt faced a winter ice storm at some point.

Ice can cause a great deal of bodily harm. Slips, trips, or falls can result in sprained ankles, broken bones, head injuries, or worse. What’s particularly hazardous is ice you cannot see – hidden under a layer of snow – making it extremely slick. Extra caution should always be taken when shoveling snow should there be ice underneath.

Your employees and customers will, rightfully so, assume your parking lots, walkways, steps, and porches will be free of ice when they arrive at your business. Your company could be held liable should an accident occur that harms someone. Your employees should take whatever steps are necessary to clear snow and ice from all areas where people will be walking.

Employee Exposure and Safety

As they do so, your employees should be instructed on how to best clear the snow and ice safely. They are as susceptible to injury as your customers. A worker’s comp claim is only a slip, trip, fall, or twisted back away when employees are clearing snow and ice. Your employees should be instructed on the proper use of snow blowers and snow throwers as well as the proper technique for shoveling snow. Older employees are especially susceptible to heart attacks when shoveling snow, especially a heavy snow.

Conclusion

Winter weather is unpredictable at best, and with it comes particular risks for your business, regardless of location. By being proactive and diligent, you can take certain steps to mitigate those risks to your employees and customers. Understanding the exposures your business has allows you to have an educated discussion with your insurance agent, who can provide you with the most competitive rates in your area.

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