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Winter Weather and Its Impact On Your Business

Winter weather is unpredictable and can have a large impact on your business. While maintaining business operations is always at the forefront of your mind, it is important to consider employee safety as well. You should have policies and procedures in place before bad weather hits so that your company and employees are as prepared as possible.

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Driving in Winter Weather on Company Time

winter weatherA major concern regarding winter weather is employees who drive a company car or vehicle as part of their workday. All vehicles should be given a safety check by a mechanic before the bad weather hits, and they should also be equipped with emergency materials such as a snow scraper, blanket, first aid kit and
flashlight.

In addition, employees should be instructed to dress properly for the weather, including a hat, scarf and gloves, or have extra clothing on hand in case of a breakdown or accident. In order to protect your company against liability, any employees who may drive in bad weather on company time should be trained in safe, cautious driving techniques and what to do in case of an accident. Also consider employees who drive as part of their commute—it may be wise to educate them in cautious winter driving techniques to ensure their safety while driving to and from work.

Employee Pay During Winter Weather

Pay issues arise when weather forces your business to close for any length of time or prevents employees from making it to work even if your business remains open. For non-exempt (typically hourly) employees, you are only required to pay them for the hours they actually work. Thus, if your business opens late, closes early or closes for an entire day, you are not required to pay them for any time missed.

If an exempt (typically salaried) employee works any part of the day, you must pay them for a full day. Similarly, if the business is closed for a day or more but less than a full week, you need to pay exempt employees their normal salary if they worked any part of that week. You do not need to pay employees if business is closed for a full week. This applies whether your company uses a five-day or seven-day workweek. You may, however, require that they use available paid time off or vacation time, if available. If your business remains open but an exempt employee cannot come in due to weather conditions, this is a personal reason, and you do not need to pay them. One option to ease the loss of a business day or any missed productivity is to ask exempt employees to work from home if you are already paying them for the day. You may also consider offering a telecommuting option during inclement weather even if your business remains open so employees can avoid the dangers of driving in the extreme cold or snow.

Be Prepared for Winter Weather

Employees should be informed of your company policies related to inclement weather—safety, attendance and pay-related. You should have an established communication method to inform your employees of a business closing or delay. When bad weather is coming, address all your policies again, remind employees of communication channels to address attendance and plan for the worst potential outcome to ensure your company is prepared for the weather.

Brian Blaston
Commercial Lines – Manager
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
fax: 856.673.5955
www.hig.net

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Winter Weather Liabilities

Winter Weather LiabilitiesLet’s explore some winter weather liabilities. The winter months bring more than just cold weather and shorter days; they bring the possibility for winter weather and storms that may result in a snow and ice-covered landscape. While it may be a winter wonderland for some, as a property manager, snow and ice buildup means a hazard with the potential for costly liability.

If you deal with either commercial or residential property, you are responsible for the side effects of winter. In legal terms, snow and ice are the same as any other hazard presented on a property, and just like any other hazard, property managers can be held liable if they cause injury. To avoid litigation resulting from winter injuries, it is important that you are vigilant in your snow and ice removal efforts.

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RECOGNIZING AND PREVENTING HAZARDS

Winter brings a variety of hazards that you need to prepare for; slips and falls are by far the most common injury associated with winter weather conditions. Diligent snow and ice removal can go far in keeping walkways and parking lots safe. Remove snow quickly after snowfalls, and salt regularly to keep ice from building up.

Not all winter hazards are under foot, however, icicles, along with other accumulations of frozen or heavy snow above walkways and building entrances, can cause serious injury if they fall on those below. Remove icicles and other buildup as soon as possible. If it still appears to present a hazard, consider rerouting foot traffic around the area.

Performing preventative maintenance in the summer and fall can also keep you prepared for winter storms. Make sure eaves are properly installed, and check that downspouts are aimed away from walkways. If eaves leak or downspouts direct water onto walkways, snow that melts in the heat of the day has the potential to freeze and create a hazard with cooler nighttime temperatures.

TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITIES TO TENANTS

For smaller residential rentals, such as single family homes or duplexes, the responsibility for snow and ice removal is commonly accepted by the
tenant. To make sure responsibility is clearly established in this situation, the lease should include a provision citing the tenants as responsible
for any snow and ice removal. This section of the lease should also establish how long after a snowfall the tenant has to clear public areas
such as sidewalks, as most municipalities have laws requiring prompt snow removal. It is important to be as specific as possible to avoid any
unnecessary liability or disputes after heavy storms.

CONTRACTING SNOW REMOVAL

Based on the size and number of properties you manage and the average snowfall in your area, you may be inclined to contract out snow removal to an independent company. While this can save you the time and costs associated with managing snow removal yourself, it is important that you choose wisely to avoid complicating matters.

First, make sure the contractor has sufficient resources to meet your demands. It is important that they can be onsite quickly after, or even during, a snowfall to make sure walkways and parking areas are cleared. It is also important that they have the equipment and manpower to finish the task quickly to reduce any disruption to tenants’ lives or businesses.

Second, make sure the company you hire carries the proper insurance, covering both its operations and its employees. The last thing you want is to end up being liable for a worker’s injury when liability for injury is the very thing you were trying to avoid. Also, much like the lease agreement with a residential tenant, it is important to specify the conditions and time constraints for removal in writing. When contracting any type of service, it is
essential to have a written contract that will guarantee you receive the services you pay for.

It should be noted that hiring a removal service does not absolve you of liability. If the company you hire provides poor service, or simple does not show up at all, you are still the party responsible for any injury resulting from a winter hazard. Make sure to pick a reputable company that you can trust to do a good job, and always have a plan of action for removal if they are unable to complete the work as quickly or effectively as you require.

For additional questions on your risks and exposures, or on appropriate coverages to protect you from liability or costly disputes, contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group today.

For more information, contact:

winter-weather-liabilitiesBrian Blaston
Commercial Lines – Manager
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
fax: 856.673.5955
www.hig.net

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