Winter weather conditions can be treacherous and result in higher rates of slips and falls as well as workers’ compensation claims, says ARA Insurance Preferred Agent Jason Siliano, vice president of commercial lines, First National Insurance Agency, Pittsburgh. That is why he takes a three-pronged approach when talking to insured members about reducing their wintertime risks.
Employees. Keeping employees safe against the winter elements requires:
- Wearing appropriate attire: “Employers need to protect their employees and have policies in place that require the proper attire during the wintertime,” Siliano says. That means having employees “wear jackets and sweatshirts, hats, gloves and grippy-sole shoes or boots. Employees are going to have more exposure and potential for slips and falls. Having the right clothing and shoes can help, particularly when they are loading, mounting and dismounting off trailers.”
- Reducing shoveling injuries: “When employees shovel, there can be more incidents of pulled and strained muscles from the actual shoveling or twisting because they are doing things they don’t do during other times of the year. They need to use proper lifting techniques,” Siliano says.
- Being prepared for winter driving: “Auto claims are our No. 1 claim overall. Throw in icy, snowy roads and that just escalates that possibility even more,” Siliano says. “Before employees go out to make deliveries, they need to ensure their vehicles are ready for winter. That means trucks have tires with good tread or even snow tires. They also need to remove snow and ice from the vehicle and windows to ensure good visibility. Then, once they get on the road, driving safely — allowing additional time, going slower and leaving more room between the car in front to allow for extra stopping distance.”
Siliano also strongly encourages his clients to take advantage of the safe driving courses offered through ARA Insurance via the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving course and RentalU, which offers a myriad of courses on ARArental.org. “Winter is usually a slower time for rental operations in the Northeast, so it can be a good time to take advantage of the training,” he says.
Facility and assets. During the wintertime, rental staff need to stay proactive in keeping their facility safe for both employees and customers.
- Reducing risk of slips and falls: “That means rental operators and their employees need to be prepared by having their plows, shovels and ice melt ready and watching the weather closely. Then they need to be proactive in keeping outside walkways shoveled and safe for walking, putting down carpets at the entrance and walkways, mopping floors to sop up extra water and having appropriate signage, such as ‘wet floor’ signs, to give warning to employees and customers,” he says.
- Protecting the facility from damage: “When there are larger snow events, rental operators need to think about shoveling roofs. Heavy snow loads or backed-up ice jams on the roofs or gutters can cause property damage, even a collapsed roof,” he says, adding that rental operators need to make sure “the building is airtight and that pipes are sufficiently insulated so they don’t freeze. Water damage can escalate claims.”
Customers. In addition to the liability associated with slips and falls at the facility, safety measures also must extend to the equipment customers rent, Siliano notes.
- Securing equipment, including tents: “Over the last couple of years, we have seen a large increase in wintertime tenting, especially during the worst of COVID-19. That takes the aspect of the slip-and-fall situation to the job site and the potential collapse or damage that could be caused from the weight of snow and ice. In the wintertime, rental operators need to be much more proactive and on top of incoming and current weather more than ever. They might have to take tents down and check for ice jams. While I don’t anticipate that much this winter, there might be some of it,” Siliano adds.
It all boils down to being prepared and proactive to mitigate risks and reduce claims during the winter, he says.