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Winter Safety Tips for Sidewalks and Parking Lots

For many businesses, the winter season is difficult because it's the slowest season, but for many parts of the country, it also results in snowy and potentially dangerous conditions. As a result of the poor weather, there is an increased risk of accidents, which have the potential to turn into a crisis for your business. To prevent any employees or customers from injuring themselves this winter, we came up with a list of winter safety tips that your business can implement.

Top Four Winter Safety Tips

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

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 your sidewalks and parking lots. This person could be you (if you own the property) or your landlord (if you rent the property). Failure to make sure someone is in charge of clearing your sidewalks and parking lots can cause employees and guests to injure themselves and leaves you vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits. If you're unsure of who is responsible for snow removal, be sure to check your business's lease agreement.

Hire a Contractor

Hire a Contractor

Although many small businesses opt to clear their own sidewalks, a majority of large franchises and chains tend to hire a contractor to clear snow and ice. This is especially crucial if your operation has a large parking lot or an area that's prone to icing over. If this is the route you’re taking, be sure to find a reputable and trustworthy company well in advance of the first snowfall. By having an outside vendor 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 some of the following 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 spot for excess snow to be dumped.

Learn Where to Move Excess Snow

Always Be Prepared

Whether you're hiring a contractor to remove snow for you or you're taking the task on yourself, you need to know where you can and can't create snow piles. Snow removal regulations will vary by city, county, and state, so be sure to check with your local government well before winter begins. Additionally, while regulations may vary, there are some general rules you should follow that we've listed below:

  • 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 onto any 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're entering or leaving your parking lot.
  • Water should flow freely and storm drains should be free of any obstructions.
  • Snow should never be piled on a nearby property of any resident or other business.
  • Never push snow across a road without knowledge of your local ordinances.

Stock Up on Winter Preparation Supplies

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

  • Keep a large supply of ice melt readily available.
  • Have shovels on hand to clean up snow or snow drifts.
  • Set out caution signs or cones in possible hazardous areas. Be sure to also note that entranceways can often become slippery, since foot traffic carries in snow and ice.
  • Provide reflective safety vests to any employees who are out shoveling your parking lot. Increased visibility reduces the risk of injury.

To make sure that your business gets through the winter season safely, be sure to start planning well before the snow starts to fall by lining up how you're going to deal with excess snow and stocking up on winter safety equipment like rock salt, safety apparel, and shovels. Being prepared will not only make things easier for your employees and customers, but it will also prevent accidents and result in a stress-free season for you.

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