Winter Risks for Businesses in Alberta

Alberta businesses deal with increased risks during the winter thanks to our weather. Winter risks for businesses in Alberta include: 

  • Slip and falls 
  • Roof collapse 
  • Ice damming 
  • Frozen pipes 
  • Winter driving conditions 
  • Cold stress for workers  
  • Carbon monoxide  
  • Increased criminal activity 
  • Operation interruption due to severe weather 

This article will provide your business with expert advice on how to mitigate these winter risks.  

Slip and Falls 

A major liability for all businesses in Alberta are slip and falls. One injury can result in a major headache and expense for business owners.  

To prevent slip and falls, do the following: 

  • Arrange for prompt snow removal 
  • Spread grit or de-icing material after snow-removal (go for pet- and environmentally friendly types if possible)  
  • Install hand-rails on stairs or elevated walkways 
  • Place anti-slip mats at all entrances 
  • Place ‘wet floor’ and ‘ice’ signage where necessary  
  • Ensure water is not draining on any walkways or stairs 
  • Ensure employees wear proper footwear (tread, non-slip) or ice cleats 
  • Have adequate lighting 
  • Develop a procedure to follow if someone does slip and fall 

If your employees are doing the snow removal, ensure they have the proper equipment, clothing and training. Snow removal tools for walkways may include a skid steer or bobcat, snowblower, leaf blower, shovels, sturdy brooms, and ice scrapers.  

Finally, protect your business with general liability insurance. This coverage can help cover the costs associated with a lawsuit if a third party accidentally slips on your company’s premises.  

Roof Collapse 

Accumulated snow can cause a roof to collapse, resulting in property damage and potential injury. You may need to remove the snow from the roof, however this can be a very risky activity. We recommend: 

  • Use long-handled rakes to remove snow  
  • If you must use lifts and ladders, ensure they are de-iced 
  • Consider contracting roof snow removal out to an experienced company (and ensure you have indemnity in your contract) 

While roof collapse would generally be covered under commercial property insurance, it’s important that the proper maintenance and snow removal tasks are carried out. If the roof collapse is due to a maintenance issue, you may not be covered.  

Ice Damming

Another issue with allowing snow to accumulate on the roof in Alberta is ice dams or ice damming. This is when snow collects on the roof, melts, re-freezes, and melts again. The melt and freeze cycle can damage the building which allows water inside to cause even more harm. To help prevent ice damming: 

  • Ensure the roof is properly maintained 
  • Clear roofs regularly of snow 
  • Ensure drainage systems are clear  

Damage from ice damming is not always covered by insurance as they are preventable by proper maintenance.  

Frozen Pipes 

Frozen pipes can burst, resulting in significant water damage 

 To prevent frozen pipes, businesses in Alberta should: 

  • Ensure pipes are insulated 
  • Seal any cracks and openings to the building (particularly in colder areas such as a basement) 
  • Drain or winterize outdoor pipes 
  • Keep the building heated properly 
  • Keep windows closed 
  • If temperature drops or heating fails, keep water moving by turning on faucets to drip or trickle 

Frozen pipes are a common water damage claim for condominium buildings. It is important to remind unit owners to keep their windows closed, particularly if hot water heating is used. You can also install glycol (anti-freeze) into the heating system to help prevent frozen pipes.  

If your business is shut down at any point over the winter months, always have someone check on the building daily or consider shutting off your water. While burst pipes are covered by most commercial property insurance policies, if your building was not properly checked on your pipes were not maintained, this type of claim may be denied.  

Winter Driving Conditions 

Winter driving conditions can include ice, snow, and reduced visibility. These conditions can be extremely dangerous and are unfortunately common throughout Alberta during the colder months. While it’d be ideal if everyone could stay home when the roads are bad, that’s not reality. Here’s how to reduce the risk of winter driving conditions for your business: 

  • If possible, avoid driving or only complete essential trips 
  • Allow vehicles adequate time to warm up 
  • Clear snow off the vehicle completely and ensure windows and mirrors are clean 
  • Fuel up before the trip or carry extra fuel 
  • All vehicles should have functioning heater/defrost, decent tire tread and pressure, working lights, good wiper blades, and full winter-grade fluids 
  • Install winter tires 
  • Equip all vehicles with emergency supplies including ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, emergency blanket, heat source, gloves, flashlight, booster cables, and tow rope 
  • Drive slowly and leave lots of space  
  • Provide winter driving training for employees 

Depending on your insurance coverage, your company’s vehicles may not be protected in the event of an accident.  

Cold Stress 

As the weather gets colder, workers are more exposed to cold stress. This is a risk for your business when it comes to liability and worker’s compensation claims. To help keep your employees safe, consider doing the following: 

  • Provide training on dressing for the weather and the signs of cold injuries like hypothermia and frostbite 
  • Implement a buddy system  
  • Provide additional clothing for employees (such as boots, jackets, and gloves) 
  • Increase breaks and offer warm drinks when temperatures drop 
  • Set up hoardings (warm, dry temporary shelters) if required to continue work 
  • Ensure heating systems are maintained and have extra fuel or power sources 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

Carbon monoxide poisoning risk is increased during the winter months. Where possible, we recommend using electric tools rather than gas-powered ones. You can also install carbon monoxide alarms or provide monitors and teach signs of exposure to help catch it earlier.  

Increased Criminal Activity 

Alberta businesses are at a higher risk of criminal activity during the winter due to shorter daylight hours and less visibility in general. To help protect your business, you can: 

  • Install adequate lighting inside and outside your building 
  • Remove tempting products from visibility, especially window displays 
  • Install security cameras 
  • If shoplifting is a concern, consider hiring a security guard or installing shoplifting security features like tag alarms 
  • Remove cash and valuables from the premises after-hours or secure them  

Business Operations Interruption 

It takes severe winter weather to shut Alberta businesses down, but it does happen. A huge dump of snow or extremely cold temperatures can interrupt business operations. Here are some tips to minimize the impact on your company: 

  • Develop maximum acceptable working limits for your employees (consider temperature, precipitation, wind, visibility, road conditions, and other factors that could affect the ability to work or carry out normal operations) 
  • Carry out regular maintenance on your building and equipment before winter hits, paying particular attention to plumbing and heating systems 
  • Winterize vehicles and equipment 
  • Install snow fencing where snow drifts can occur before the first frost 
  • Ensure there are no cords, cables or loose materials on the ground – if they cannot be moved, clearly mark them so they do not get damaged during snow removal 
  • Consider having a backup generator to ensure you can operate if there is a power outage 
  • Do an analysis of how winter can impact your operations beforehand and identify your individual risks and plan to mitigate them 
  • Prepare for winter before it hits – arrange for snow removal, have appropriate supplies, install lighting, train staff, et cetera 

Finally, talk to one of our experienced commercial brokers to understand how your insurance coverage protects your business when it comes to these winter risks in Alberta. 

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