As the weather begins to turn cooler throughout the United States, veterinary clinics should prepare and plan for winter weather. Winter weather hazards can be responsible for property damage, injuries to employees, and damage to fleet operations. With these factors in mind, loss prevention is crucial to minimizing insurance claims.
Snow accumulation and cold temperatures create the potential for roof collapse and freezing pipes. Roof collapse occurs when the snow and ice loading is greater than what the building was structurally designed to handle. Older buildings may be more susceptible to roof collapse than newer buildings due to stress over time. Newer building codes also typically include larger safety factors for roof loading. Building construction also affects snow load capacity. For example, poured concrete buildings usually have much higher live and dead load design capacities compared to wood or steel frame buildings. Another emerging concern arises from the popularity of solar panels. These panels have substantial weight and reduce the live load capacity of the roof.
Freezing water pipes are a concern in all buildings, especially in vacant buildings or multi-tenant buildings with vacant spaces. Severe winter storms may damage equipment, disrupt utilities, and break windows. If sub-freezing temperatures remain for extended periods of time, these conditions may lead to domestic and/or fire sprinkler pipe breakage.
Employee Health and Safety
The health and safety of your employees should always be a top concern. Ensure they use proper footwear, clothing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for whatever task they are preforming. If they are responsible for snow and ice removal, ensure they are properly trained and attired to reduce injuries from physical stress, repetitive motion, exposure to cold, or equipment hazards.
Some snow removal efforts require the use of plow trucks, front loaders, snow blowers, or other mechanical equipment. Always ensure employees are properly trained before asking them to operate any equipment.
Hazardous road conditions caused by winter weather often create traffic delays, closed roadways, and vehicular accidents. According to data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, poor-weather-related driving conditions are associated with significant increases in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Wet and slippery road conditions increase stopping distances and reduce traction and visibility. Not only do accidents affect your auto insurance rates, but they also can affect your employees’ health and your workers' compensation costs. It is beneficial to inspect and service all vehicles prior to winter’s arrival. Furthermore, AVMA Trust recommends conducting a winter weather safety meeting with drivers to address driving techniques and emergency preparedness.