Preparing your facility for winter

Now that summer weather is quickly coming to an end and colder temperatures are not far away, it is time to ask yourself an important risk management question. Are you ready for winter? During the winter season, Markel often receives an increase in certain claims. Cold weather conditions can affect the possibility of auto accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and water damage due to frozen pipes. There are strategies you can use to prevent these events from occuring.

To prevent auto accidents:
  • Avoid driving. It is best to stay off the road when conditions are icy.
  • Review safe winter driving practices with your drivers. While important for all, give special attention to new vehicles and new drivers.
  • 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.
  • Inspect your tires. Have a professional inspect your car or van tires to ensure the tread allows safe travel through snow.
  • Remove snow and ice from windows, mirrors, and lights. 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.
  • Watch for icy conditions. It is wise to decrease your speed and increase following distance from 2-3 seconds to 8-10 seconds. Watch cars in front of you and avoid areas where they slide, choosing the path that will give you the most traction. Remember that bridges, areas under them, and overpasses freeze faster than other road surfaces. When braking on ice and snow, drivers should follow owner manual instructions based on the vehicle’s braking system.
  • If you start to skid, don’t panic. Take your foot off the brake or the accelerator, and steer into the skid in the direction you want to go. When you regain control, accelerate slowly.
  • Brake with care. If you have anti-lock brakes, keep the pedal depressed and do not pump the brakes. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, apply the 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.
  • Don’t spin the tires if you get stuck. 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 transmissions) and with gentle pressure on the accelerator, try to ease out of the spot without spinning the wheels.
To prevent slip-and-fall accidents:
  • Clear walkways of ice and snow as soon as possible. If you own your premises, make advance arrangements with snow removal contractors to ensure sidewalks, parking lots, and walkways are cleared before customers arrive.
  • Watch for black ice. Black ice occurs when ice melts and refreezes on dark asphalt surfaces, making it difficult to see. Runoff from downspouts and areas near curbs can become especially hazardous. Keep ample amounts of ice-melting compound to treat these areas. Be sure this is accessible to adult staff, but not to children.
  • Place skid-resistant, absorbent mats at all entrances. To avoid tripping hazards, inspect mats frequently. Replace frayed mats immediately.
  • Check floor surfaces for moisture and mop up excess moisture immediately. Post “wet floor” signs as soon as possible, and remove them once the dampness has abated. Entrances during inclement weather and areas surrounding water fountains require an extra peek when searching for wet floor conditions.
  • Document and record your efforts to keep your floors hazard free. Make this documentation a part of your daily activity records.
To keep pipes from freezing:
  • Plan to inspect your pipes. If your facility is going to be unoccupied for more than 24 hours, inspect your pipes once a day for freezing.
  • Keep your heat on. If you close during the holidays, heating expenses incurred while closed are far less costly than having to close your facility for water damage repair.
  • Seal all openings to the outdoors. Cold air can harm unprotected water pipes, so cover pipes with foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves.
  • Open interior cabinet doors. To keep pipes from freezing under sinks, open cabinet doors allowing warmer room air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Let water drip. 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, furniture, and important electronic equipment like computers, printers, phones, 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 their exposure to potential rising water. These preventative measures can help prevent you from suffering downtime during wintry weather.

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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