As a property owner or lessee, you have responsibilities when it comes to maintaining your property and protecting the safety of others this winter.
As a general rule, accumulation should be removed from roofs when it reaches more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) in depth. Parking lots, sidewalks, stairs and emergency exits should also be cleared regularly to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall injuries.
But these activities aren’t without their own risk, which is why our Risk Services consultants have created this guide to help you develop a well-documented winter maintenance protocol. It
outlines common winter risks, considerations for snow and ice removal, and other weather-related suggestions.
We’ve also created a snow removal log to help you track your winter maintenance activities.
To learn more about how you can manage your property risk, contact Sentinel Risk Insurance Brokers
Roofs are generally built to withstand a certain amount of accumulated snow. However, it is best to avoid letting excess snow or ice accumulate, as this can damage the structure and roof covering. Excess snow and ice can also create ice dams, which prevent drainage of the roof covering. This, in turn, increases the risk of water infiltration. Further, any excess snow or ice prevents control and expansion joints from working properly. These joints are designed to allow materials to contract and expand in winter. As a general rule, it is advisable to remove snow and ice from a roof then their thickness exceeds 20 cm (8 in.). However, snow removal is not without risk. Some of the most common risks are falling from heights, electrocution and heart attacks.
Employers, owners and workers must use safe work methods when engaged in snow removal operations. Review the following list to make sure you’re prioritizing safety:
Clearly, removing snow and ice from roofs is an arduous and risky task that requires a certain level of expertise. This is why we recommend calling qualified snow and ice removal professionals. Not only will a qualified company know the proper techniques, it will have the equipment necessary to safely do the work. Don’t forget to ask the contractor to provide you with proof of insurance coverage.
Another option is to sign a contract with a qualified company to remove your snow for the entire winter season. Ideally, you should sign this contract before winter starts.
To prevent major damage, use the pre-winter period to check for common signs of trouble, such as:
If several such signs are present, the building should be evacuated as soon as possible. Necessary measures should be taken to remove the snow, no matter how much has accumulated on the roof. If necessary, consult a structural engineer to verify whether the roof is in fact under mechanical stress caused by snow loads.
In winter, snowfall and cold can make surfaces icy and slippery. In order to keep your premises safe and reduce the risks of slip-and-fall injuries, it is essential that a documented winter maintenance program be put in place.
Swift evacuation is vital during an emergency. For this reason, emergency exits, outdoor stairs and other doors must never be obstructed or covered with snow. This is especially important for paths leading to emergency evacuation assembly points.
What to do if snow and ice is being removed by a contractor:
What to do if snow and ice is being removed by an employee:
An effective winter maintenance program could serve as evidence in defending against a claim resulting from a slip-and-fall.
Note: It’s important to keep documentation on all incidents for a period of no less than two years.
Streets, yards and routes designated for the fire department must always be maintained in good condition so that they can be used at any time by fire department vehicles.
In an emergency, firefighters have little time to hook up to private hydrants and fire department connections. To facilitate their work and reduce delays, this equipment must remain unobstructed from any obstacle within a radius of at least 1.5 metres (5 feet). Snow should be prevented from accumulating in these locations.
To ensure that your natural gas appliances are safe and working properly, the gas inlet should remain unobstructed within a radius of at least 1 metre (3 feet) from bushes, plants, snow, ice and other materials.