If your business will be welcoming in people this winter, consider making a plan to help you protect against slip, trip, and fall hazards.
While it is possible for someone to slip, trip, or fall due to a hazard at any time of the year, the likelihood of an accident increases in winter months due to snow, ice, and other outdoor conditions. As a property owner or manager, it is your responsibility to make an effort to reduce potential accidental injury to your guests, employees, and patrons and ensure there is some sort of slip and fall insurance coverage in place.
Any business that deals with people (think hotels, apartments, manufacturing firms, shopping centers, supermarkets, retail stores, office complexes, etc.) is vulnerable to slip, trip, and fall hazards and the associated liabilities. With the help of Travelers Insurance, here are five steps to help you minimize potential accidents this winter.
1) Develop and implement a written snow and ice removal plan.
Write your plan and determine who is responsible for carrying it out. They should be responsible for duties such as selecting contractors, maintaining removal logs, frequency of removal, use of sand/salt, and proper claim handling practices.
2) Determine if the snow and ice removal will be carried out by in-house personnel or by an outside contractor.
Due to the standby nature of snow removal, an outside contractor may prove the better option. Outside contractors should be selected on their expertise, response times, and capabilities. Make sure invoices include details of services rendered and be sure to verify proper liability insurance coverage of any contractor. Obtain and review certificates and contracts annually, noting whether or not there is a cancellation of liability insurance notice requirement in the contract.
If your employees perform the snow removal work, provide the right training and equipment, such as insulated boots, gloves, and jackets, and snow removal equipment.
3) Designate someone to monitor weather conditions, walking surfaces, and effectiveness of removal practices.
In short, be prepared with your plan and make sure it works.
4) Record removal activities in a log.
Information should include the individual’s name, estimated amounts of snowfall, ice buildup, temperature, action taken (e.g., called contractor, used plow, applied sand/salt), date and times, inspection notes, and unusual conditions.
5) Perform incident investigations promptly.
If there is an incident or accident, investigate what happened and see if your plan needs to be updated to better account for the scenario that lead to the incident.
PUTTING THE PLAN INTO ACTION
When determining areas to target first with your plan, be mindful of high-risk areas such as high-traffic areas, slopes, and dimly lit or uneven surfaces. If you can, provide warning signs in high-hazard places and provide adequate lighting where possible. You should also provide warnings of “hidden” hazards that could be inadvertently struck by cars or trip pedestrians if covered by snow (signs, fire hydrants, curbs, grates, etc.).
Then, be sure to think through all aspects of your plan, as there may be specific details you overlooked. For example:
- Consider the type of treatment for given conditions – Calcium chloride is very effective in extreme cold, but you need to allow sufficient time for chemical treatments to take full effect.
- Ice melt products can leave entrance floors slippery – Be prepared to clean up any moisture that is tracked in.
- Water can refreeze – Melting snow piles adjacent to a walkway can result in refreezing of water on the walkway. Review drainage and puddle formation and ensure that it doesn’t discharge in frequent foot traffic areas. If you notice downspouts discharge water onto walking surfaces, consider relocating them.
- Be aware of snow stockpiles – While it’s great that fallen snow is no longer an immediate threat, be careful where it ends up, as huge snow piles can sometimes reduce visibility around facility entrances and around corners.
Each municipality has its own ordinances or codes dealing with snow and ice removal. Property owners should know the requirements of the municipality in which they own and manage property. Consulting an attorney and municipal authorities can help you better understand your rights and obligations and make the appropriate decisions to protect your customers, employees, business, and the public.
We hope these steps are helpful when you prepare for the cold winter months ahead. And, as always, we recommend reviewing your General Liability, Commercial, and Workman’s Comp coverages to ensure you’re adequately covered in the event of an accident. If you aren’t covered or aren’t satisfied with your level of coverage, reach out to the Feltner Group – we can help you secure the perfect policy for your needs to ensure you have slip and fall insurance coverage!