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Winter Safety Tips for Sidewalks and Parking Lots

For many businesses, the start of winter marks the beginning of a slow season with reduced sales. In many parts of the country, it also results in snowy and potentially dangerous conditions. Poor weather increases the risk of accidents, which can create a crisis for your business. To prevent any employees or customers from injuring themselves in your snowy parking lot, we came up with a list of outdoor winter safety tips for the workplace.

Winter Weather Safety Tips

Staying on top of the winter weather can help the season pass painlessly for your business. Here are four helpful tips to ensure you have a safe winter season:

1. Know Who's Responsible for Clearing Your Parking Lot and Sidewalks

Before the winter weather sets in, it’s important for business owners to know who is responsible for clearing their sidewalks and parking lots. This person could be you (if you own the property) or your landlord (if you rent the property). Failure to clarify this information could result in slippery, dangerous conditions that leave you vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits. If you're unsure who is responsible for snow removal, check your business's lease agreement.

2. Hire a Contractor

Hire a Contractor

Although many small businesses opt to clear their own sidewalks, a majority of large franchises and chains hire contractors to clear snow and ice. This is especially crucial if your operation has a large parking lot or an area that's prone to becoming ice covered. If this is the route you’re taking, be sure to find a reputable, trustworthy company well before the first snowfall. By hiring an outside vendor to perform these duties, you won’t have to stress about clearing everything before your business opens. When hiring a snow removal company, be sure to consider these tips:

  • Make sure the contractor presents a valid and current certificate of insurance and make photocopies for your own records.
  • Require the contractor to place your business on their general liability, automobile liability, and workers’ compensation insurance policies as a certificate holder.
  • Show the contractor the locations of all obstructions in the parking lot, including parking stops, speed bumps, curbs, poles, and water drains. This will prevent destruction to your property and their equipment.
  • Mark the obstructions listed above with bright sticks or flags so they stand out when covered in snow.
  • Communicate with the contractor and agree on a safe place for excess snow to be dumped.

3. Learn Where to Move Excess Snow

Always Be Prepared

Whether you're hiring a snow removal contractor or taking the task on yourself, you need to know where you can legally pile the excess snow. Snow removal regulations will vary by city, county, and state, so check with your local government in advance. While regulations may vary, there are some general rules you should follow:

  • Snow must be piled away from customer and vendor foot traffic areas, including sidewalks, loading docks, dumpsters, entrances, and exits. Also, avoid piling it near mailboxes, water drains, gas meters, and fire hydrants.
  • Snow piles should be positioned so that melted snow does not flow into high-traffic areas. If it does, it may freeze and form a sheet of ice.
  • Snow piles should not inhibit the visibility of guest or vendor drivers as they enter or leave your parking lot.
  • Water should flow freely and storm drains should be free of any obstructions.
  • Snow should never be piled on the nearby property of residences or businesses.
  • Never push snow across a road without knowledge of your local ordinances.

4. Stock Up on Winter Preparation Supplies

When you operate any type of business, it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If a storm rolls through that's larger than anticipated, the plow trucks are backed up, and snow starts falling in the middle of the day, you can be prepared by stocking safety supplies. We’ve provided a list of the essentials your business should have on hand in case of inclement weather:

  • Keep a large supply of ice melt readily available.
  • Invest in high-quality shovels to clean up snow or snow drifts.
  • Set out caution signs or cones in possible hazardous areas. Entranceways can often become slippery, since foot traffic carries in snow and ice.
  • Provide reflective safety vests to any employees shoveling your parking lot. Increased visibility reduces the risk of injury.

To make sure your business gets through the winter season safely, start planning before the snow starts to fall. Be prepared to deal with excess snow and stock up on winter safety equipment like rock salt, safety apparel, and shovels. Once you have a winter safety plan in place, you can focus your attention on attracting customers with winter promotions.

Posted in: Management & Operation | Seasonal | By Richard Traylor
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