The hazard indicator on most thermometers is set at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It may not be listed specifically as such, but the freezing point for water triggers a host of hazards for property managers and owners. These hazards are nothing new, but they are often overlooked. In the event that they are taken seriously, they are sold short by the tendency to lump them into typical concerns over “slip and fall” litigation and “black ice”. Unfortunately, this oversight continues despite the fact that ice hazards are deadly. Take the Federal Highway Administration for instance. Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on icy or slippery pavement leaving over 1,300 people killed and more than 116,800 injured.

Ice on roads, parking lots or walkways is a known hazard, but there are other, lesser-known hazards, which are identified below. For property owners and managers, it is important to have a complete picture of the dangers associated with ice. This is because they form a baseline for preparedness to keep assets safe and protected. Regardless of whether those assets are physical (HVAC, vehicles, landscaping, gutters, windows, etc.) or human (pedestrians, tenants, customers, employees, etc.), ice hazards do not discriminate. Appropriate defenses and protection measures should be key components of a winter risk mitigation strategy. To start, simple defense mechanisms are also included below:

  1. Frozen Access: Is your property protected by a gate or lock code? Ice is known to restrict access by preventing the simple actions of key pads or keys. The result is traffic bottlenecking and inconvenience at best, lost production or limited to no business operations at worst. The best defense here is remote control access instead of keyed locks or key pad entries.
  2. Ice Spears: Otherwise known as icicles, these frozen weapons can cause great harm for obvious reasons. Beyond the obvious though, icicles can also prevent or limit operations too. Two years ago, a client of ours paid to have icicles removed from their expansive metal roof because they grew so large and dangerous that employees could not use the half of the parking lot that immediately bordered the building. A defense in this case starts with examining all downspouts and roofs for proper drainage and the installation of other mitigation measures such as gutter heating elements. It includes proper removal of ice once formed if needed, including the possibility of liquid de-icing agents applied to roof lines.
  3. HVAC Units: Here, indoor climate control and environmental factors are heavily influenced by outdoor ice dangers. Outdoor HVAC units are highly susceptible to damage because they require free airflow no matter the time of year. Ice build-up can damage the coils over the long-term or the falling spears identified above could do more short-term harm. Appropriate covers offer a quick defense strategy in this case, but it should be extended to the occasional clearing of snow via hand method around the base of these units if conditions persists. Chances are, this is not something typically included in a snow and ice management contract. It should be considered as an optional line item to quickly enact if necessary.
  4. Property Blemishes: Ice will point out even the smallest of defects in a property, such as a small pothole that collects water. If the parking lot does not slope correctly, ice formation will show you. If a metal roof does not have appropriate drainage safeties, you will know that too. Studying the property for known hazards, damages, exposures, and problem areas is the starting point. Addressing basic preventative maintenance features like parking lot surfacing and drain maintenance are the next steps. But because your property is not concealed in a perfect air-tight bubble, the placement of temporary signage throughout the property notifying of potential hazardous conditions from ice goes a long way. Simply cautioning visitors, employees and tenants that “slippery conditions may persist” reduces the risks associated with ice.
  5. Company Vehicles: Believe it or not, vehicles left overnight in a parking lot, loading dock, or other critical area present an ice concern. At issue here is the potential placement of snow. Typically parked out of the way, these vehicles are often positioned in the preferred pile locations and stack points for snow and ice management contractors. The result could be snow placed further away from drain grates when the lot is plowed, which is then susceptible to ice formation during thaw-and-refreeze periods. Another concern relates to the snow that accumulates on these seldom-used vehicles, which then melts off the vehicle only to refreeze on the pavement down below. When this vehicle is used, the puddle of ice that formed below is now an open hazard. The best defense for this little known hazard is to work with your snow and ice management contractor to place these vehicles in areas to minimize disruption to operations and the potential for hazards.
  6. Look Out Below Above: The weight of ice on branches and limbs from landscaping can become a hazard just like they are in heavy summer thunder storms. Improperly pruned or maintained trees have susceptible branches that are dead, dying, split or topped. Defensive mechanisms here stem from yet another routine preventative maintenance measure: properly pruning to maintain plant health. Beyond pruning, trees should be routinely inspected for warning signs like unnatural leaning, which may indicate a danger of uprooting, or proximity of branches to power lines. One last point here that is worthy of note, pruning is not necessarily confined to the growing season.

Let’s face it, ice is awesome when it cools our summer drinks and provides an element of recreation or sport, but most of the time, we view it as a hazard. To treat this hazard as seriously as the liability it creates, think beyond the usual suspects. Make sure that you are prepared to mitigate these ice risks with a sound strategy. The professionals at Brian-Kyles are eager to help.

Tagged: commercial, company , tips , winter

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