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Parking Lot and Sidewalk Winter Weather Risks and Controls

Risks that business and property owners must control include slip/fall exposures on 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 or ice can occur during many customer activities in parking lots, on sidewalks, and in store entry areas, including:

  • When entering and exiting personal vehicles.    
  • When walking on snow-covered areas between parked vehicles.    
  • When walking on slippery vehicle lanes. 
  • When walking on slippery sidewalks and stairs.
  • When entering buildings with hard tile, concrete, or other slippery surfaces. 

Complicating these slippery surfaces risks are: 

  • Potholes, ice patches, and other surface irregularities hidden by new snow.
  • Moving vehicles, with limited visibility through frosted windows, traveling in shared spaces.  
  • Continuing snow fall during extended snowstorm periods. 

Preparations

Preparing for winter weather and slippery conditions include:

  • Owners working with insurance agents to identify risk exposures and including related coverages to protect business interests. (Review costs/benefits for custom controls with agent.)    
  • An assigned coordinator overseeing winter weather risks. The coordinator should include weather forecast monitoring, work with snow removal contractors in early snow removal, and with company maintenance teams in ongoing surface maintenance. 
  • Contracts with removal contractors that include duties, timing, priorities, and follow up. 
  • Contractors maintaining insurance coverage for their risk exposures. 
  • Maintenance teams arriving early on snow days to prepare surfaces. Ongoing spot checks should be included to maintain outside and inside surfaces. 

In addition to standard preparations, the following should be considered 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 from 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.    
  • Install cart corrals in several parking lot locations to reduce customer travel distances. 
  • Where feasible, install and maintain sidewalks between vehicle rows.  
  • Heated sidewalks or entrances should be considered, especially in new construction.

Applied Risk Controls

Make sure you’re thinking about the risk controls below during snowstorms:

  • The assigned coordinator should communicate with contractors and maintenance teams in advance about forecasts and timing of pending snow removal. 
  • Contractors should provide early snow removal and surface applications to control snowstorm effects. 
  • Maintenance teams should work with contractors to identify and control spot risks and follow up. 
  • Where 24-hour use exists, snow removal may require limited 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. 
  • Snow pile placement should be 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 pedestrians and vehicles until controls are completed. Daily inspections are recommended 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 snowy, icy, and rainy areas. 
  • North-facing areas of buildings benefit from early snow removal and daily surface checks. 
  • 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. 
  • Pre-plan 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 common controls for winter weather risks for parking lots and sidewalks. Prudent awareness, planning, physical controls, and insurance coverage will help protect your customers, contractors, and employees.

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