One way in which cold weather can hurt your business is by causing serious property damage. In fact, 15% of all small business property and liability claims result from water damage and freezing damage, according to claims data from The Hartford. Winter also can threaten your business with increased liability risks. For example, a customer or delivery person can get hit by a falling icicle or slip and fall on a slippery walkway.
You can protect your business by making sure you’re properly covered with the right business insurance. You can also make sure you learn about the various ways cold weather can cause problems for your company. This can help you prepare ahead of time to avoid or minimize the damage. Here are four ways winter can wreak havoc on your small business:
1. Water Damage Caused by Frozen Pipes
When temperatures dip, water can freeze in your plumbing. This can cause pipes to burst, which can result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in commercial water damage. Frozen pipes that burst can damage your floors, walls, and other structural elements. Water from bursting pipes can also damage your inventory, equipment or office furnishings.
This type of disaster is more likely to happen when you and your employees are away for an extended period, such as over the winter holidays or during a weekend. Fortunately, you can take simple preventative measures to help keep your pipes from freezing.
- Seal your workplace. Hire a qualified contractor to repair cracks or holes in the exterior of your building that could allow cold air inside the structure. Make sure your building is properly insulated and cover any pipes that run the risk of freezing.
- Keep the temperature consistent. Set the thermostat so it maintains an even temperature inside your business at night and over weekends or holidays. Consider installing a monitoring system to alert you if the temperature falls below a specified number.
- Prevent pressure buildup in pipes. Keep an eye on weather forecasts. When winter storms or colder temperatures are predicted, leave the faucets in your building slightly open. You want them to drip steadily to help prevent freezing.
- Obtain back-up power. Install a generator or other source of power that can help keep your building warm in case of a power outage caused by a winter storm.
These steps can greatly reduce your risk of a frozen pipe disaster.
2. Collapse of a Roof Due to Heavy Snow
If a snowstorm dumps too much snow in your area, the sheer weight of it can cause your roof to cave. This can cause quite a bit of roof damage.
Find a licensed, surety bond and insured roofer or general contractor. They can safely remove snow from your roof. Never let two or more feet of snow accumulate on top of your building without calling in the pros for removal.
3. Slip-And-Fall Accidents Due to Icy Walkways and Stairs
Slip-and-fall accidents can be costly and even lead to lawsuits. For instance, say a customer or visitor falls at your business. The incident would be covered under the liability coverage of your business insurance. In fact, slip-and-falls account for about 10% of business insurance claims, according to our own claims numbers.
If an employee slips and falls, that would be covered by separate workers’ compensation insurance. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have both types of coverage.
To reduce the risk of slips, put a winter weather plan in place to handle winter weather hazards quickly.
Create a written plan that includes:
- Promptly removing snow from walkways and in parking lots
- Sprinkling salt on icy spots outdoors
- Putting mats with non-skid backing at the entrances to your building
- Checking floors regularly and quickly mopping up any puddles caused by melting snow falling off boots or shoes
- Using “wet floor” signs if necessary
- Keeping a safety log with records of the times and dates you perform these safety measures.
4. Winter Storms That close Businesses
Winter storms that deliver significant amounts of snow may force your business to shut down for days or weeks. For example, say a winter storm hits your area. Due to unsafe conditions, your business is forced to shut down for a few days. Your business income insurance can help replace your lost income during the temporary time your business was shut down.
Further, if your business gets hit with a property loss due to winter weather, business insurance can help cover the repairs to the damaged property. Let your insurer know as soon as possible so they can work with you to get the necessary repairs made quickly. This can help prevent additional damage from water, snow, or ice. Also notify your insurer promptly of any equipment damage for replacement costs or liability issues, such as slip-and-fall incidents.
Taking these steps can help you weather the risks of winter and help protect your business from even the worst storm.
Do you have questions about business insurance? Contact Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance Agency at 312-264-6055 today and let us help put your mind at ease. No matter what kind of business, claim or risks you are facing, we have a solution!