Winter season us upon us with many areas throughout the U.S. being affected by winter storms and heavy snow. In these winter months, proper precautions need to be taken to protect your business from the cold weather and the many problems it may bring. Roofs can be loaded beyond their design by the accumulation of snow and ice. Fire protection equipment may freeze leaving a major portion of the facility unprotected.
The best approach is to take an active role in safeguarding your business from the severe cold weather. We wanted to share some top areas of concern to watch out for in your wood business during the winter season.
1. Weight of Snow and Ice
The roofs of industrial and commercial structures are vulnerable to large accumulations of snow, ice, or other precipitants. The weight of snow or ice can easily cause overload, which can result in collapse. Every year there are hundreds of roof collapses and more than half of these are the result of rain or snow overload, with snow being by far the major culprit.
In addition to primary damage to a structure, roof collapse generates secondary losses in business interruption by damaging equipment and automatic sprinklers, exposing the building to added fire risk. Roof collapse can break gas lines or disrupt other combustible substances, as well as cause potential water damage.
Here are some things you can do to prevent collapse:
- Know the “Danger Zone” for snow loads. Roof equipment, parapets, or roof projections can cause greater snow accumulation from drifting.
- During heavy snowfall, be sure to check accumulations. Hire a licensed contractor to remove snow and ice if it is in the “Danger Zone”.
- Check adjacent roofs, especially those lower than the main roof.
- Clear clogged drains to avoid ponding, especially on pitched roofs.
- Check support columns and beams for forklift damage.
2. Freezing Pipes
One characteristic of water is that it expands as it freezes. As water freezes, this expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it and causes pipes or fixtures to burst. The resulting water damage is often costly and may involve time consuming repair projects.
The potential for frozen pipes is not a hazard that is confined to the far northern climates. Many southern territories experience intermittent cold spells that result in frozen pipes in regions where cold weather is normally not severe or prolonged. While frozen pipes can lead to severe damage, this is a disaster that is preventable.
Here are some ideas and techniques to prevent frozen pipes and costly repairs in your facility:
- Locate the pipes that are most likely to freeze. Consider exterior walls, crawl spaces, attics, unheated rooms, etc. Insulate the pipes with foam jacketing or utilize heat tape approved by an independent testing organization and safely arranged in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
- Inspect areas that may normally be unoccupied to check for any openings in walls, roofs, windows, vents, etc., that might allow cold air to enter. Seal cracks that could allow cold air to reach susceptible pipes.
- Provide adequate insulation for unheated areas such as attics, crawl spaces or rooms.
- During extreme cold, let hot and cold water trickle at night since the movement of warmer water prevents freezing. Remember that a hot water supply line is also susceptible to freezing if the water is not moving and the water temperature inside the pipe is cold.
- Avoid what may be a common habit of using low nighttime thermostat settings during cold weather. The extra fuel and heating cost will be minimal compared to the cost of a disastrous frozen pipe incident.
3. Slip and Fall Hazards
Snow and ice increase the risk for potential slip and fall accidents on your premises. The best defense that a company can have is an up-to-date log of activity that proves that reasonable care was taken in continually monitoring the premises for the presence of any hazards both inside and outside.
Here are some steps you can take to protect your operations against slips and falls:
- Hourly Survey – Every hour, an employee should follow a management-defined route through the store, surveying every aisle and all floors for foreign objects or spills that could present a hazard for passing customers. Anything found should be documented and appropriate action to remedy the hazard should be taken.
- Post Warnings – It is also important to remember that falling hazards not only exist inside, but also outside in parking lots or in lumberyards where anyone has access. Every morning, an employee should survey any outdoor areas for slip and fall hazards prior to store opening. These include cracks or potholes in pavements, as well as snow and ice that could cause a fall. Any issues found should be taken care of as quickly as possible and signs should be posted to warn of hazardous conditions. Hazards that cannot be fixed immediately, such as potholes or cracks in pavement, should be highlighted with spray paint or another type of barrier to make customers aware of the present condition.
- Keep a maintenance Log – Keeping an accurate and current maintenance log will ensure your company is taking reasonable care in protecting customers in your store and on your premises.
4. Extreme Driving Conditions
With severe weather conditions, there is need for extra precautions for your drivers. Reduced visibility, slippery roads, black ice, increased traffic are some risk factors when driving in winter weather. Your drivers need to be vigilant to stay safe especially when driving larger vehicles with loads in severe weather conditions.
Here are some tips for drivers in winter conditions:
- Reduce your speed – Reducing speed is the single most important action drivers can take. Speeds should be adjusted based on visibility, weather conditions, road conditions, and traffic.
- Increase your following distance – It is important to put more space between you and the vehicle in front of you as there is more inclement weather and poor visibility. This will give your vehicle more time to react. The stopping distance your vehicle needs in adverse weather conditions can be as much as four to ten times the normal stopping distance.
- Keep vehicle well-maintained – When conducting your pre-trip inspection, make sure to check the windshield wipers and clear off any ice or snow from windows, roof, and mirrors. Remember to check brakes, and tread condition and inflation of your tires.
- Carry necessary supplies – Be sure to be prepared with supplies available such as heavy, warm blankets, non-perishable food and water, flashlights, first aid kit, and an ice scraper and snow brush.
You can find more information and resources on protecting your business during winter weather on our PLM Loss Control Center. There you will find guides on winter weather, freezing and busting pipes, slip and fall hazards, as well as a snow load checklist.
There is also useful information on the IBHS website on how to get your business ready for winter weather.