With the temperatures dropping, it’s time to swap sunscreen for de-icer and break out the winter gear. If you operate a store, restaurant or business that welcomes customers to your location, safety should be top of mind now that the snow and ice have arrived. 

Here are Cayuga Mutual’s top winter safety tips for business owners to ensure your customers stay safe during the winter months:

Keep Parking Lots and Walkways Clear of Snow and Ice

This is one of the most important things you need to do as a business owner to keep your customers safe throughout the winter. Falls from slippery conditions not only put your customers at risk of injury, but can open you up to liability issues.

Many business owners will hire a commercial snow removal company to handle this task. It’s important to choose a company that is fully bonded and insured. You should clarify at what level of snow accumulation they will clear your property, their response time and whether they will also put down some form of de-icer.

If you choose to handle snow removal in-house, make sure it is clearly understood who is responsible for it, when it needs to be done and who the backup is in case of illness or emergency. 

Always keep de-icer on hand so any employee can put some down on ice patches that pop up. Even employees who aren’t directly involved in clearing the snow should take responsibility for keeping an eye out for dangerous conditions and ensuring they are addressed immediately.

Promptly Communicate Closures

It’s ultimately up to your customers to determine whether the roads and sidewalks are in good enough condition to travel to your location. At the very least, you can help avoid a situation where they brave the weather only to show up and find you’re closed!

If you decide to close your business, do your best to communicate this to your customers as soon as possible. Make use of the tools at your disposal such as your website, social media pages, e-mail lists and even the local media if appropriate, to let customers know that you’re closed because of the weather and prevent them from heading out for no reason.

Keep Generators Outside

A generator can help prevent lost revenue if you are forced to close due to a power outage. It can also help prevent perishable inventory from spoiling when there’s no electricity. In an area that’s prone to power disruptions, this could be a beneficial investment for your business.

If you do use a portable generator, it’s critical that regardless of the weather it is kept outside. Running a generator inside your building puts you, your employees and your customers at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Outside, you should also keep it away from windows, doors and vents to make sure the exhaust stays outside where it belongs.

Prevent Ice Falling From Your Building

We may not be able to stop the ice and snow from coming out of the clouds, but you can take steps to prevent it from coming off the roof onto your customers.

Icicles that form on your roof or gutters can be nice to look at, but they come with a safety hazard. Simply take a pole and knock them down, before they fall on their own when a customer is standing underneath.

Icicles are often a warning sign that an ice dam is present. Ice dams can form on your roof when snow accumulates, melts and refreezes again. While we’ve already mentioned how to get rid of icicles, it’s always best to address the root of the problem. In this case, it can also prevent significant and costly damage to the roof itself.

Proper insulation and ventilation for your roof are the best defences against ice dams. Throughout the winter, you can use a snow rake or shovel to remove snow from the roof and prevent it from melting and refreezing into an ice dam. You can also consider running heat cables over your roof in the places where ice dams are most likely to occur. 

Take Care With Fallen Tree Branches

As a business owner, you should be aware of branches hanging over your property. Particularly after freezing rain, ice buildup on the branches could cause them to fall. Having a professional tree surgeon visit in the fall to remove branches that are old, dangling or looking unhealthy is one of the best ways to prevent this from happening.

Regardless of whether you do some autumn tree maintenance, keep an eye on your trees throughout the winter, especially after storms or strong winds. If you see a branch at risk of coming down, act immediately to prevent injury and property damage by blocking off the surrounding area and contacting a professional to deal with the situation as soon as possible. 

If a fallen or dangling branch is touching an electricity wire, do not attempt to handle the situation yourself. Call your local utility company or a professional tree surgeon for assistance and ensure that the public is kept well away from the fallen branch.

The weather outside may be frightful, but visiting your business should always be delightful. Use our advice to ensure your customers stay safe and sound throughout the winter months, regardless of the weather conditions.

To ensure you’re covered no matter the weather, Cayuga Mutual offers business insurance plans to suit any business throughout Norfolk, Haldimand and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn about the coverages we offer and experience the Cayuga Mutual difference yourself.