With winter slowly but surely creeping in, it’s time for Alberta businesses to start thinking about insurance liability issues. Slips and falls can cause serious injuries, and being neglectful about property upkeep can endanger your financial well-being, regardless of whether or not you have the right insurance protections in place. Even if you’re covered, you risk increases to your annual premiums if your insurance provider has to out a liability claim.
There are simple steps business owners can take both outdoors and indoors to reduce risks. By being vigilant about properly maintaining your property and facilities, you can help customers and passersby avoid injuries while protecting yourself against potentially costly claims and damages.
Ice and snow removal are major concerns when it comes to exterior property maintenance, and it’s vitally important to adhere to municipal ordinances in regards to upkeep. In Calgary, snow and ice clearing requirements are set forth in street bylaw 20M88, which requires that owners or occupants of properties adjacent to city-owned sidewalks must remove snow and ice from public walkways within 24 hours. Similar statutes are on the books in Edmonton, where the Community Standards Bylaw lays out your responsibilities.
Other municipalities in the province have their own individual standards, but by and large, they mandate similar requirements. Check with your local municipal officials if you have any questions about your responsibilities.
Finally, be sure to apply anti-slip materials, such as salt or sand, to all icy, snowy or wet outdoor surfaces during the cold-weather months.
Customers coming into businesses typically bring trace amounts of ice, snow and slush with them, and that can create dangerous indoor conditions and liability issues. Business owners should be vigilant about keeping floors dry and safe, and use signage to alert visitors to wet surfaces.
Additional indoor safety issues you should pay attention to include:
- Lighting: All areas frequented by customers and employees should be well-lit
- Surfaces: Uneven surfaces and areas where gaps or bumps may pose safety hazards should be marked with signage, or even better, eliminated altogether
- Handrails: All ramps and staircases should have secure, continuous handrails
- Obstructions: Aisles, hallways and all other floor spaces should be kept clear of tripping hazards, such as extension cords, wiring and product displays
Business owners can use a proven three-step process to identify and eliminate slip and fall-related safety risks. The first step is to assess risks:
- Perform regular, careful evaluations of sidewalks, driveways and parking lots
- Collect suggestions and input from staff members who are tasked with keeping these areas safe
Next, take action to reduce or completely eliminate any risks you identified:
- Maintain demanding standards for lighting, visibility and site maintenance
- Demand that any snow removal contractors you hire be certified by the Workplace Safety & Prevention Service (WSPS)
- Add salt and/or sand to slippery outdoor areas
- Keep drainage grates clear and accessible
- Clearly mark all indoor and outdoor slip and fall hazards that cannot be remedied
Finally, engage employees and encourage them to play an active role in site safety. Proper equipment, good communication and effective hazard reporting protocols are the three pillars of risk reduction.
Remember to extend these principles to the home environment as well. Homeowners are also required by municipal bylaws to clear their sidewalks of ice and snow, and you can also promote higher safety standards by winterizing your house and its outbuildings.
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Lane’s Insurance is a leading Alberta-based brokerage, providing a comprehensive family of insurance products for businesses, homeowners, drivers, vehicle fleet owners and more. If you have any questions about commercial property insurance, business insurance, liability insurance or any other form of coverage, please contact a Lane’s Insurance representative or visit Lane’s online for a fast, free quote.