Winter Weather Risk Management

As winter weather approaches in New York, it’s a good risk management idea to review some of the basics of winter safety for your property, vehicles, and employees.

For your property owners:

  1. Make sure you have contracted with a capable snow removal company and have obtained a certificate of insurance from them naming your firm as an additional insured.  Ideally you should also have a contract with the contractor that transfers all risks associated with their operations away from you, commonly known as an indemnity agreement.  Within that indemnity agreement you should also specify that the contractor is required to carry general liability and auto liability with limits of at least $1,000,000 and not have  any exclusions related to snow removal.
  2. Make sure you have your snow shovels out and snow melting materials (salt, calcium chloride, etc.) handy and ready at all entrances and exits from your building.
  3. Now that all the leaves have fallen, it’s a good idea to make sure that all roof drains and gutters are clean and unobstructed.  During the early and late winter months it’s not uncommon to have significant snow and rain fall that needs to be shed off of flat roofs to prevent collapse and water leaks.
  4. Speaking of heavy snow loads, if you have flat roofs on your buildings, it’s a good idea to have the contact information handy for roof snow removal companies.  We suggest that subcontracting this out to a specialist rather than having your own employees doing this a better risk strategy due to the inherent risks of being on the roof covered with snow and ice.
  5. Communications plan – if we experience significant snowfall which makes a delayed opening of your business a necessity, how will you contact all your employees, vendors and customers.  Establishing a communication plan before it’s necessary is a good idea.

For those companies with driving and fleet automobile exposures:

Having safe drivers all year round is critical, but educating drivers during the winter months is particularly important.  Here are a few ideas to communicate to employees with driving duties as well as for all employees as the drive to and from work:

  1. Leave ample time to arrive at your destination.  If you’re on a delivery schedule, call your customer in advance to let them know you may be delayed by the weather and don’t rush when the roads are slippery.
  2. Keep safe distances between you and other vehicles.
  3. Inspect vehicles before a trip and in between stops, paying particular attention to headlights and tail lights to make sure they are  not obstructed.
  4. Avoid speeding – that should go without saying, but reinforcing good habits is important.
  5. Learn how to brake and avoid skids before you need to use those techniques!
  6. Keep a supply of flairs and other road notification signage on hand.
  7. Keep a warm blanket or two in trucks during long haul trips should highways become impassable and shut, to keep drivers warm.
  8. Keep a first aid kit in all vehicles.

For Companies with employees working out in the field:

Cold can not only be a nuisance, but can also cause injuries and illness, so proper training and communication to employees is necessary to avoid downtime and injuries.

  1. Encourage employees who get cold to take frequent breaks to head indoors to warm up before they get too cold.
  2. Drink plenty of liquids, especially warm liquids, but avoid caffeine.
  3. Avoid smoking as this restricts blood flow
  4. Dress warmly in layers with a waterproof outer layer if precipitation is anticipated.
  5. Of course wear warm hats and gloves.  For employees in contracting operations where gloves may become wet, having multiple pairs available is helpful.
  6. Have employees stretch before working, and intermittently after breaks to avoid muscle pulls.
  7. Know the symptoms of cold related injuries and illnesses.

For more information on managing the risk that cold winter weather brings to your New York organization, please contact us in New City!

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