December 2009, Volume 20 Number 4 Search All Oracle Editions

Risk Management Loss Prevention Tips for the Winter Season!

Winter is once again here and during this season trends being observed relate to property losses resulting from ruptured pipes due to freezing and liability claims being presented for slip and falls (or loss of balance) that occurred on school board property.

Property Losses - ruptured pipes due to freezing:

Our loss history tells us that many of these types of losses tend to happen when cold weather occurs during winter holiday periods when the schools are closed for extended periods, and in some cases, heating systems are left on a lower setting to save energy. With fewer staff in the building, small losses can quickly turn into large losses that may not be discovered until the first day back to school in January.

Risk Management Recommendations:

Before Cold Weather Hits

  • Designate a “weather watcher” to monitor conditions and implement procedures. (This can be done via an electronic monitoring and alert system).
  • Gather emergency supplies: extra tarpaulins for windbreaks, space heaters (to keep instruments from freezing) and antifreeze supplies for cooling systems.
  • Prepare snow removal equipment.

During Cold Weather

  • Monitor and record temperatures in hard-to-heat areas that contain vulnerable equipment or piping systems; repeat every few hours during particularly cold weather.
  • Check temperatures in critical areas at night and on weekends, as well as during the day.
  • These steps can be done via an electronic monitoring and alert system; with the proper follow up procedures should the alarm be activated.

Liability Losses – slip and falls

Since our inception, OSBIE has paid out millions of dollars in slip and fall related claims. The majority of these injuries are usually the result of inadequate salting and sanding procedures during winter months. A smaller, but still significant number of claims occur on wet surfaces inside the building - the result of melting snow or rainy weather. Many of these claims could have been avoided if the school had been following an effective maintenance program. Other claims could have been successfully defended if the school had maintained accurate documentation of their winter maintenance programs. In the absence of proper documentation, the courts will be less likely to accept that a school took all reasonable steps to prevent a hazardous situation.

Risk Management Recommendations:

  • If an outside contractor has been hired to clear the snow, the contract should state clearly when snow removal is to be conducted, or when salting/sanding is to occur. The activities of outside contractors should be documented in a Maintenance Log Book.
  • During the progress of a snowfall, a regular inspection of all walkways, parking lots and roofs should be conducted to monitor the build-up of ice and snow. The date/time of the inspection, and any corrective measures should be documented in a log book at the school.
  • Place safety cones around entrance ways, internal stairs or any other areas which may be wet from snow tracked in from outside. Mop up excess moisture and dry as soon as possible.
  • Ensure staff are provided for snow clearing activities that may be required for permit-holders using the premises after regular school hours.

Julie Welsh,
CIP, Risk Management Program Co-ordinator