When you own a business, there is what seems like an endless list of tasks and considerations to keep in mind—and when you own a business in Canada, business winterization is one of the more essential things you need to remember and implement every year when cold temperatures arrive. Here are some need-to-know tips about preparing your business for winter from the qualified brokers at Morison Insurance.
Not everyone sees the point of business winterization—after all, buildings in Canada need to withstand extreme temperatures, severe winter storms and much more on their own, so what's left to do? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. But there are some excellent reasons why winterizing your commercial property should be at the top of every business owner's checklist when the chilly winter winds begin to blow. Making sure your winterize your property before the snow begins can be the difference between a happy holidays and speaking to an expert Morison Insurance broker about a loss.
First and foremost, proper winterization techniques can go a very long way to protect your business against insurance claims. It's no secret that Ontario winters can be treacherous, and they present numerous opportunities for bodily injury and property damage. If someone injures themselves on your property—because, for example, you didn't have a solid plan in place for snow and ice removal—they could bring a lawsuit against you, and you could be found liable in court for paying them a settlement, not to mention your litigation costs for your legal defence. Make sure to speak with a Morison Insurance broker to ensure your business insurance is up-to-date.
Another big reason to stay on top of business winterization is to lower your commercial building's energy consumption so you can pay less on your energy bills. It's no secret that energy costs tend to skyrocket during colder weather, and you can trace that uptick in expenses to your commercial HVAC system. There's no way to prevent a spike in energy usage during the winter because you need to heat your commercial space, and your furnace requires a significant amount of energy to do so. But by ensuring your HVAC system is ready for the winter months with the proper business winterization techniques, you can ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible and not needlessly burning through energy without benefitting you.
Finally, one of the key reasons to prepare your business for winter is that no one needs the stress and hassle of dealing with costly winter-related damage that could have been avoided with simple preventative measures. Problems like a leaky roof or cracked foundation can have severe consequences for your business operations, resulting in unhappy customers, unproductive employees, health and safety violations and, in some cases, a complete shutdown of your business until the problem is resolved. Taking the time to do some business winterization steps is preferable to those issues in the long run.
How exactly should I go about the process of winterizing your business? Here are a few tips to follow when preparing your business for winter that will help you avoid the consequences of unprotected, unwinterized commercial property.
Regarding your business insurance coverage, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for winter is to ensure that you have adequate commercial general liability insurance coverage limits to handle slip and fall incidents. Even with snow removal and all the de-icer in the world, there's still potential for your clients, customers or even just random passersby on the street to fall and injure themselves on your commercial property, and you can be held liable for third-party bodily injury as a result of those accidents. The cost of a lawsuit can add up really quickly, so it's crucial to have the right coverage limits so you can rest easily, knowing your insurance company will step in and cover the entire cost if you are sued. Speak with your insurance broker at Morison Insurance to ensure you have the proper coverage limits.
Speaking of snow removal, it's a big part of business winterization for the reasons outlined above. But it's more complex than sending an employee out with a shovel every morning (or strapping on your snow boots and doing it yourself). The best course of action is generally to hire a snow removal company or contractor that can be relied on to take care of prompt, thorough snow removal whenever needed. This transfers some of the risk, though not all, to the snow removal contractor, who should have their own commercial liability insurance coverage, and it's a good idea to have yourself added to their policy as an additional insured. Because of the high risk involved with improper snow removal, some insurance carriers may want evidence that you have a reliable snow removal plan before they provide you with liability coverage.
HVAC system maintenance is another significant business winterization factor that keeps your employees safe and your customers comfortable. Heating units naturally see increased usage when we're experiencing cold winter weather, and no one will be willing or able to hang around your commercial property to work, shop or take advantage of your services if your furnace breaks down during the coldest month of the year. Maintenance involves simple steps like changing the furnace filter regularly. Still, it's also a good idea to get a professional tune-up done for your commercial heating system at least once per year in the autumn before it enters an extended use period.
The roof of your commercial building takes the brunt of extreme winter weather from winter storms and snow accumulation, which is why it's one of the areas that results in many insurance claims for property damage. The weight of all that snow just sitting up there can be too much even for the sturdiest structure, so it's important that it's cleared off regularly. That's especially true for a flat roof with no gravity to help rid itself of accumulated snow weight. Business winterization for your roof is about more than just clearing off snow, though. In the fall, before winter hits, you should complete a thorough inspection of the roof area, looking for problems or warning signs that have the potential to turn into problems. If you need more time, ability or inclination to get up close and personal with your commercial roof, hire a winterization service or contractor to take a good look around and correct any issues they notice.
While you or your contractor are up there on the roof, it's the perfect time to maintain another critical piece of the business winterization puzzle—your eavestroughs. All the rain and snow that falls on a slanted roof is channeled into gutters, which can be disposed of safely via the downspouts. But suppose the gutters are clogged with dirt, pine needles and other debris, or they're in bad shape with cracks, holes and missing sections. In that case, all that water has nowhere to go and ends up dripping down the exterior of your building, where it can cause all sorts of problems, from a cracked foundation to rotting window and door casings, damaged siding and much more. It may not seem like such a big deal, but the fact is that just one inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof produces a surprising 620 gallons of water—and your commercial roof is probably significantly more significant than 1,000 square feet. That means your rain gutters manage a massive volume of water every time it rains or the snow melts, and preparing your business for winter should include cleaning and maintaining eavestroughs to ensure they're capable of carrying out that function all winter long.
In Ontario, plumbing systems are built with cold weather in mind, and pipes shouldn't freeze under normal conditions. If they do freeze, however, the standing water inside them will expand and put tremendous pressure on the pipe from the inside, which can cause burst and pinhole leaks that will lead to substantial water damage. Preventive maintenance can help you avoid the problem of frozen pipes during the business winterization process. If you have an unheated storage facility or an outdoor spigot, the pipes leading through or to those areas should be drained and shut down for winter. That's also an important step to take if your business will be closed, and therefore unheated, for a while during the winter, such as the winter holiday break.
While you can spend days looking at every corner of your business, that is not a very efficient use of your or your staff's time. However, keeping an eye out while completing general cleaning of your business during the warmer months is a great way to stay on top of issues before they become more noticeable in the colder months.
Checking windows and doors for proper weather stripping to avoid heat loss, making sure heating ducts are clear of dust and debris, and noticing changes in the temperature of water faucets due to water heater or water supply line issues are three ways to make sure you winterize your commercial property during the summer months before the winter season arrives.
This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.