Are you ready for winter?

Now that colder temperatures are starting, it is time to ask an important risk management question.  Are you ready for winter?  During the winter season, there is often an increase in certain claims reported by early care and education programs.  Cold weather conditions can increase the possibility of auto accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and water damage due to frozen pipes rupturing.  There are strategies you can use to help prevent these events from occurring.   

To prevent auto accidents:

  • Don’t drive unless you have to!
  • Have your van or bus tires professionally inspected to ensure the tread allows safe travel through snow.
  • Review safe winter driving practices with your drivers.  Drivers should be away of their vehicle’s breaking system before braking on ice and snow and follow owner manual instructions.  While important for all, give special attention to new vehicles and operators.
  • Keep windows, mirrors, and lights clean and free of snow and ice.  Make sure windshield wipers and defrosters are working, and fill washer reservoirs with no-freeze windshield washer fluid.  Turn on your headlights so other drivers can see you.
  • Beware of ice.  Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop.  Increase normal following distance of 2-3 seconds to 8-10 seconds in slippery conditions.  Follow the path that will give you the most traction.  Watch cars in front of you and avoid areas where they slide.  Remember that bridges, areas under them, and overpasses freeze faster than other road surfaces.
  • If you start to skid, don’t panic.  Take your foot off the brake or accelerators.  Shift the car into neutral (automatic transmission) or declutch the car (manual); steer in the direction you want to go – steer into the skid and begin to accelerate slowly.  Avoid panic breaking or hard acceleration.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, keep the pedal depressed and do not pump the breaks.  If you do not have antilock brakes, apply brakes firmly.  If the brakes lock up, slowly release the brake pedal until the tires are no longer skidding and you feel them braking properly.
  • Guard against SUV overconfidence.  Four-wheel drive vehicles are great for initial traction and avoiding getting stuck in the snow, but they have the same difficulty keeping control and stopping as other vehicles.
  • If you get stuck, don’t spin the tires.  Clear snow away from tires and under the vehicle.  If necessary, use kitty litter or salt around the front wheels for front-wheel drive and rear wheels for rear-wheel drive vehicles.  Point the front wheels straight, shift to drive (use second gear for manual transmission) and with gentle pressure of the accelerator, try to ease out of the stop without spinning the wheels.

To prevent slip-and-fall accidents:

  • Clear walkways of ice and snow as soon as possible.
  • Watch for black ice, which occurs when water melts and refreezes on dark asphalt surfaces.  Downspout drainage areas and near-curb areas can become especially hazardous.
  • Keep ample amounts of ice-melting compound on hand.  Store it in an area that is easily accessible by adult staff but not children.
  • Place skid-resistant, absorbent mats at all entrances.  Inspect the mats frequently so they do not becoming tripping hazards, and replace frayed mats immediately.
  • Make advance arrangements with your snow removal contractors to clear sidewalks, parking lots, and walkways before the children arrive.
  • Post “Wet Floor” warning signs at entrance areas.  These signs must be visible and don’t obstruct walkways.
  • Check your floors frequently and immediately clean up moisture.
  • Document your efforts to keep your floors hazard-free in a daily log or on your calendar.  Most importantly, be consistent and timely with your cleaning and inspection schedule.

To keep pipes from freezing:

  • If you close during the holidays, keep your heat on.  Your heating expenses are far less costly than having to close your center for water damage repair.
  • If your center is going to be unoccupied for more than 24 hours, you should have a plan to inspect it once a day for freezing pipes.
  • Seal all external openings where cold air can get at unprotected water pipes and cover pipes with foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves.
  • Keep pipes from freezing under sinks by opening cabinet doors, which allows warmer room air to circulate around the pipes.  If pipes start to freeze, let water drip slowly through an open faucet to help prevent pipes from bursting.

Pipes that rupture due to freezing can result in extensive water damage to walls, carpets and furniture, in addition to important electronic equipment such as computers, printers, telephones and copiers.  While the electronics themselves can be replaced, important business records can be lost indefinitely if computers are damaged.  Protect equipment with a cover before you leave each day.  Elevate computers off the floor to reduce its exposure to rising water.


The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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