Are you considering the responsibilities and liabilities of snow and ice control? - DENTCO

Are you considering the responsibilities and liabilities of snow and ice control?

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Winter is upon us
In the June issue we discussed the logistics involved with “Gearing Up for Snow and Ice Removal”. However, that article dealt predominantly with preparation and planning. In many parts of the country, retailers are currently well under way in developing their snow and ice plans. In fact, many have completed their preparation and solidified their contracts. Unfortunately, the majority of retailers and facility managers are neither prepared nor ready in the event of a snowfall or ice storm. They will often rely on current staff and do not fully comprehend the immense resources, planning, and significant liability exposure that can accompany a major, or even minor, snow event.

The Dangers of Snow & Ice
Weather events, particularly snow and ice, can expose a retail location to tremendous liabilities and potentially damaging litigious situations. After 26 years in this industry, I have personally witnessed everything from the occasional slip and fall to actual fatalities resulting from snow operations. The dangers associated with snow and ice removal cannot be emphasized enough and should be clearly understood and managed with these considerations in mind.

Staffing & Manpower
Numerous trade associations recommend avoidance of manual snow and ice removal by existing staff. The reasons for this are obvious. First, redirection of current staff to handle snow issues significantly diminishes the store’s ability to service its customers. Secondly, the seriousness of snow and ice operations demands that trained professionals handle these events.

Any retail location or facility manager should consider utilizing an Exterior Services Management (ESM) company as opposed to employees and current staff. ESM companies utilize highly trained professionals that have amassed years of experience in dealing with snow and ice events. Additionally, a sound ESM Company carries extensive insurance coverage that affords protection for your store, employees and most importantly, your customers. The occurrence of workmen’s compensation claims is also eliminated through use of an ESM rather than employees. The best solution for facility managers is to leave it to a professional, an ESM company, and focus on their core business concerns. The savings in litigation, damages, and customer perception will pay dividends for years to come.

Parking and Lots aren’t the only concern
In addition to plowing, chemical snow removal is an important aspect of removal success. However, whereas chemical removal is fine for roads and walks, it can be potentially damaging for roofs and elevated drainage systems. Calcium or Sodium Chloride are not intended for these applications and can result in damage to both the roof and the drainage system. Dow Chemical Company, based in Midland, MI also recommends against using chemicals on roof systems. Your ESM Company will be able to offer various solutions for these types of dilemmas.

Before Snowfalls
Usually we have a little warning from the national weather service before we get hammered by a big snowstorm. Here is a simple, yet effective checklist to follow when preparing a retail store or facility before a snowfall:

  • Inspect roof framework for weaknesses and assess the roof’s capacity for snow.
  • Review your winter emergency response plan. Ensure it addresses snow-level monitoring as well as snow removal. Also make sure all phone numbers of staff and emergency numbers are up-to-date.
  • Maintain equipment. Keep shovels, snow blowers, and other snow removal equipment in ready condition. (If you have an ESM, the contractor partners will have all this)
  • Regularly have contractors inspect drains. Remove any debris that may prevent water flow. Make sure exterior down spouts are clear of snow or ice at outlets.

After A SnowFall
This list of actions is primarily geared toward the ESM Company and professional snow and ice contractors. None of these actions are intended to be carried out by retail managers, facility managers or employees.

  • Verify that drains are clear. Have contractors remove ice and snow to facilitate melting and run-off.
  • Have contractors clear paths on pitched roofs. On pitched roofs without drains, have contractors open paths to ensure drainage.
  • Watch for ponding. As snow compresses and absorbs rain, increased weight on the roof can create depressions that will not drain. If not drained, ponding will likely grow worse if weather conditions deteriorate. Call your ESM Company for dispatch.
  • Have your contractor remove snow and ice carefully. If snow blowers are used on the roof, have contractors ensure the blades are raised high enough to avoid damaging the roof cover.
  • Have contractors Remove snow from the roof in increments. Do not wait until collapse is imminent to address the situation. This is especially critical in areas where snowdrift can occur-such as peaked single gable or curved roofs, or the valleys formed by several gables or peaks.
  • Contractors proceed with caution. Contractors remove snow only from roof areas confirmed to be structurally safe. Work from the edges toward the center to avoid creating point loading.

While there is no sure fire way to insure downtime from snow and ice, a little preparation will keep a store or facility from being left out in the cold during the worst storms.

Outsourcing Snow Removal
As a retail facility manager, you have many options when it comes to materials and procedures for your snow and ice removal operations. However, selecting the most effective chemicals and procedures requires you to become more familiar with them. In most cases, retail facility managers don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands and an ESM company can be an excellent source of information-especially when you use their information in conjunction with training sessions provided trade associations. Effective snow removal operations require serious training and planning. All of your exterior contractors should have the opportunity for a refresher training session prior to activation of snow removal operations. Trained, capable, and motivated contractors will always remain the key to effective snow removal and ice control. When utilizing an ESM company, you don’t have to worry about upgrades in equipment and appropriate use of new chemicals. The time you save allowing an ESM to manage your exterior services will allow you to meet your corporate needs in a more cost-effective manner.

If you feel your existing contractors need an evaluation to upgrade quality assurance and safety standards in the snow and ice season, perhaps its time you consider an ESM Company to manage those relationships.

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