Winter Weather Preparedness
Tokio Marine America's (TMA) mission as a Good Company is to provide Anshin (safety, security, and peace of mind) to our clients and the public during these challenging times.
During recent years, winter has brought extremely cold weather to parts of the country that would not normally experience extreme cold temperatures. The 2021 and 2022 winter seasons saw two storm events that brought over $35 billion in damages and caused 350 deaths. Compare these results to the previous 10-year period from 2010 to 2020 where damages from winter storm events totaled $17 billion and caused 117 deaths.
Arctic air can be dangerous when combined with brisk cold winds and wind chills that have the ability to bring temperatures down below freezing and, in extreme cold, conductions below zero. Cold weather affects millions of people and properties throughout the country each year.
Being prepared can help mitigate employee injuries, property damage, and auto fleet accidents caused by winter events. Read on for steps your organization can take to prepare.
Keeping Employees Safe and Preventing Slips and Falls
Winter weather hazards can increase the potential for injuries and liability claims. The following are some examples of those hazards and suggestions to help keep your employees, visitors, and others safe.
- Implement a slip, trip, and fall (STF) prevention program. STFs are the most common injury resulting from ice and snow accumulation on walkways. A strong STF prevention program that includes salting or using an ice melt product on walkways, clearing snow from high- traffic areas, and continuously monitoring these areas can help prevent these types of accidents.
- Ensure good building and grounds upkeep and maintenance. This not only protects the building but can also protect people. Removing snow and ice from roofs can prevent injuries from heavy snow or ice falling on pedestrians. In addition, keeping gutters, downspouts, and hand railings in good condition and properly maintained can help prevent STFs.
- Hire reputable contractors. If using contractors to help with snow and ice removal or any other service, it's important to be sure they're reputable. They should be able to provide good references and have adequate insurance in place. You should request Certificates of Insurance and ask for your organization to be listed on their policy as an Additional Insured.
Preparing Your Fleet
According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 150,000 auto crashes occur annually due to icy roads in the United States. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that about 17% of all vehicle crashes occur in snowy conditions.
In addition, the American Automobile Association reports that there are more than 2,000 winter road deaths per year in the United States due to driving in snowy and icy conditions.
The most effective approach to mitigating these types of fleet accidents during harsh winter weather conditions is to avoid driving. If vehicles must be used during these conditions, the following steps can help to protect your drivers and fleet operations:
- Slow down during harsh road conditions. Black ice is clear and hard to see on the roadway, blinding snow can occur at a moment’s notice, and snow can accumulate on roadways quickly. Adjusting your speed accordingly can help reduce the potential of losing control of your vehicle or having to react quickly when vehicles in front of you suddenly stop.
- Stay informed of weather conditions. Always stay informed, especially if the forecast calls for any inclement weather. While weather forecasts can be inaccurate, plan for the worst to ensure your operations are ready.
- Keep driver training up to date. All drivers should be up to date with their regular defensive driver training, including training specific to operating a vehicle in wintry conditions, from maneuvers when hitting patches of ice to knowing what to do if the vehicle gets stuck on the road. Tokio Marine America has resources available to assist with this training.
- Keep emergency preparedness kits up to date. Be sure each vehicle's emergency preparedness kit is up to date and includes items for cold weather such as a snow brush, shovel, windshield washer fluid, warm clothing, cat litter for traction, and blankets.
- Prioritize vehicle maintenance. Vehicle maintenance is always important, especially in cold weather. Ensure that your vehicle’s windshield wipers, lights, and tires are in good condition. Changing vehicle wipers and rotating vehicle tires every six months, at the very least, is a good safety practice.
- Consider implementing vehicle telematics. Vehicle telematics can help add another level of protection, from locating vehicles that are stranded in the snow through GPS technology to getting vehicle health alerts. Contact Tokio Marine America Loss Control for more information on telematics.
Protecting Your Property Against Winter Damage
The weight of snow on roofs can cause damage, especially during times of heavy wet snow fall. Extreme cold temperatures can cause property damage that can be detrimental to your operations. The following should be considered when preparing your property for oncoming cold snaps.
- Help prevent pipe freeze. Water damage caused by burst pipes is one of the leading causes of property damage during cold weather events. Keep thermostats in your buildings and properties above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, especially at night when outside cold temperatures may dip quickly.
- Maintain backup power sources. Ice accumulation and high winds can cause localized power outages. Ensure that your backup power sources are maintained and working properly, and that you have enough fuel to keep them operating for an extended period of time.
- Safely remove ice and snow from roofs. This can help prevent roof collapse and other damage caused by the weight of ice and snow. Be mindful of ice dams, which can prevent melting snow from properly draining from the roof.
- Follow safety guidelines when using space heaters. Avoid using space heaters. They can be a fire hazard if used incorrectly and left unattended. If they are needed, then keep at least a three-foot distance between the heater and combustibles, and do not use them amongst flammables. Only using Underwriting Laboratory (UL) listed heaters and confirming it includes an automatic shut-off if it tips over are among several safety measures to consider.
Being ready for a winter storm can help minimize business interruptions and claims due to extreme winter weather conditions. Having a disaster recovery plan can help mitigate your risk and safeguard employees from serious injuries.
Contact Tokio Marine America Loss Control at TMALossControl@tmamerica.com for more information on loss control resources available to our policyholders.
Below are links to additional resources for your reference:
Prepare Your Organization for a Winter Storm - Playbook (ready.gov)
Preparing for a Winter Storm|Winter Weather (cdc.gov)
Stay warm when working in the cold | Safety+Health (safetyandhealthmagazine.com)
Winter Weather | Ready.gov
Cold Weather Safety
How To Prepare Your Commercial Building For Winter (forbes.com)
About Tokio Marine America
IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Tokio Marine Management, Inc. does not represent, warrant, or guarantee the appropriateness, validity or accuracy of this information in every situation. This information does not necessarily cover every possible condition, protection, hazard, situation or exposure and is not warranted to be in compliance with laws, regulations, codes or standards in every jurisdiction. This information is representative of reasonable practices in the industry. However, you may wish to investigate whether these recommendations are applicable to your specific operations. Loss control is the responsibility of your management.