During the depths of the Canadian winter, you’re guaranteed to experience frigid temperatures, a few snowstorms, and several icy patches. Unsurprisingly, this time of year brings risks that could leave your business vulnerable to property damage or liability claims. Thankfully, many winter risks are easily mitigated with a little preparation or proactive action.

To safeguard your business during the winter, here are the top four things you should do:

1. Clear the snow off your roof

A snow-covered roof can look very picturesque, but don’t let that stop you from taking steps to clear it off. Leaving snow on your roof is problematic for a few reasons. Firstly, the longer the snow is sitting on the roof, the more susceptible your roof could be to water damage or even leakage, which could cause an assortment of costly problems within the interior of your property. Secondly, the weight of the snow can cause severe damage to the roof – possibly causing older or unkempt roofs to cave in if left unattended.

Protecting Your Business in Winter

If snow is left to melt on the roof, another hazard may form – icicles. These sharp rods of ice commonly hang over eavestroughs and have the possibility of falling – and seriously injuring someone – at any given time.

Clearing snow and ice from the roof can help prevent a property damage or bodily injury claim. You can shovel it off yourself by safely using a ladder and a plastic shovel (a metal shovel can damage the roof). Call a professional snow removal company if you’re not confident in doing this after a significant snowfall.

If you’re waiting on a snow removal company or haven’t yet found the time to remove the hazard yourself, notify passersby of the situation above them by displaying “falling snow/ice” signage.

2. De-ice sidewalks and use anti-slip mats inside your business

One of the most common winter risks is a slip-and-fall incident due to an icy sidewalk or a slippery floor. Depending on the circumstances, businesses can be held liable if a passerby slips on an icy patch outside of their business. Always salt or sand the sidewalks leading up to your entrance as soon as you notice the area is getting icy. If snow has accumulated, you’ll need to create a clear pathway within a reasonable amount of time.

At the entrance to your business, consider placing a heavy-duty mat on the outside, where people can brush off the snow and ice and reduce the amount they bring inside. On the interior, place large, heavy-duty mats along the floor. Make sure the mats continue for an adequate length to help soak up the moisture as people walk on through.

3. Keep the heating on (even when you’re closed)

Canadian winters can be fierce, and temperatures can quickly drop into the subzero territory throughout the season. While you may be looking for ways to trim costs, turning off the heating in your commercial space isn’t the way to go. For starters, doing so can cause your furnace to work harder when you turn it back on.

Moreover, turning the heating off overnight can cause major issues with your plumbing. One night in the middle of winter can be enough to cause vulnerable pipes to freeze and inevitably burst due to the density of ice. That can cause serious water damage and flooding in severe cases.

To prevent pipes from freezing, keep your thermostat set to at least 12C. If there are areas in the building that are noticeably cooler (such as a chilly basement or drafty room), insulate your plumbing pipes and seal any cracks around windows and exterior doors.

4. Deter theft with lighting and cameras

Theft may not be something you think about as a winter-specific risk but think again. The longer nights and the quieter streets are a surefire recipe for an easier break-in.

Safeguard your business by keeping the exterior lit up around the clock. Make sure you have cameras rolling and include exterior signage that makes potential thieves aware they’re constantly being recorded. Additionally, remove valuables from your window displays if applicable.

Whatever the Weather, Protect Your Business With the Right Insurance Policy

Taking preventative measures is extremely important, but winter is unpredictable, and your business can always be susceptible to a liability claim or a property damage risk. Ensure you have business insurance, specifically commercial property insurance and commercial general liability.

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About the Author: Lauren Barber