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Parking Lot and Sidewalk Winter Weather Risks and Controls

Business and property owners must control several risks, including slip/fall exposures in parking lots and sidewalks due to winter conditions. Each winter season presents unique slip/fall risks from the first frost in early fall to the last frost in late spring. Deep winter months sustain continuously frozen surfaces, while changing seasons present overnight freeze-thaw challenges. In addition to adequate insurance coverages, owners should prepare for and control physical winter slip/fall conditions.

Risk Awareness

Slip/fall incidents on snow/ice can occur during many customer activities in parking lots, sidewalks, and store entry areas, such as:

  • Entering and exiting personal vehicles.
  • Walking on snow covered areas between parked vehicles.
  • Walking on slippery sidewalks and stairs.
  • Entering buildings with hard tile, concrete, or other slip-potential surfaces.
  • Potholes, ice patches, and other surface irregularities hidden by new snow.
  • Continual snowfall during extended storm periods.

Preparations 

Preparing for winter weather and slippery conditions include:

  • Working with your insurance agent to identify risk exposures and including related coverages to protect business interests.
  • Being aware of and complying with municipal regulations that govern the timing of snow removal.
  • Assigning a coordinator to oversee winter weather risks. Coordinator responsibilities should include monitoring weather forecasts and working with snow removal contractors and/or company maintenance teams in ongoing surface maintenance.
  • Getting written contracts with removal contractors in place, including duties, timing, priorities, and follow-up.
  • Naming property and business owners who hire contractors as additional insureds on the contractor’s commercial general liability policy and obtaining a certificate of insurance (COI).

In addition to standard preparations, consider the following in long-term planning:

  • All surfaces should be inspected during the year, which will aid in timely, warm season repairs.
  • All potholes should be filled and smoothed with weather-resistant materials.
  • Sidewalks should be free of uneven cracks, major damage, and other irregularities.
  • Floor mats should be placed at entrances and changed when needed throughout the day.
  • Floor surfaces beyond floor mats should be kept dry, including frequent mopping as needed.
  • Where feasible, install and maintain sidewalks between vehicle rows.
  • Heated sidewalks or entrances should be considered, especially in new construction.

Applied Risk Controls

Risk controls during snowstorms include:

  • The assigned coordinator communicating with contractors and maintenance teams in advance about forecasts and timing of pending snow removal.
  • Maintenance teams working with contractors to identify and control spot risks and follow-up.
  • Where 24-hour use exists, snow removal may require limiting parking access to clear lot areas for snow removal and surface applications. Where cars cannot be removed adequately during business hours, extra plowing/removal should take place after hours when lots are empty.
  • Placing snow piles in areas where drainage will not flow to parking areas and refreeze into ice. When needed, excess snow piles should be trucked to distant disposal sites.

Additional considerations:

  • Other structural risks related to snow and ice may exist on roofs, awnings, and other vertical surfaces, such as large icicles, ice and snow slabs, and roof loading collapse. Barricades and rerouting may be required to protect pedestrian and vehicles until controls are completed. We recommend daily inspections for potential risk areas.
  • Roof and ground drainage systems and piping may need winter heat controls to prevent freezing. Drainage routes should be maintained away from walkways and parking lots.
  • For delivery areas and dock stairs, consider expanded metal or other self-cleaning surfaces.
  • Employees should use slip-resistant footwear in areas affected by snow, ice, and rain.
  • North-facing building areas benefit from early snow removal and daily surfaces check.
  • Various deicers and abrasive materials may help control residual ice and snow. Pre-check chemical properties to avoid damage to concrete, metals, and nearby vegetation.
  • Follow chemical and power equipment safety instructions for all activities.
  • Preplan job hazard analysis (JHA) work steps with contractors and teams to control equipment and vehicle/pedestrian risks.
  • Work with management, contractors, maintenance teams, agency safety consultants, and other specialists to identify unique risks and controls for each location.

These are some of the common controls for winter weather risks for parking lots and sidewalks. Prudent awareness, planning, physical controls, and insurance coverage will help protect customers, contractors, and employees.

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