As the weather changes, so do the hazards you should be prepared for. An incident, such as a burst pipe, can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Proper preparation can not only help to prevent this type of incident, but can also reduce injuries and minimize additional costly risks to the facility during the winter months.

Freeze-Ups

Water damage is a significant threat in the winter and can affect property, electronic equipment and machinery, important paperwork and records, and stored product. Pipes can easily freeze and burst from the cold temperatures, causing water damage. If an incident such as this goes unnoticed over even a weekend, extensive flooding can result, costing you thousands of dollars. Freeze-up often occurs due to a broken window or an open door, which allows cold air to enter an unheated or un-insulated area. In addition to pipes, any equipment involving water, that condensates, or utilizes pneumatics is at high risk. Poor building insulation, piping that runs outside of doors, and having heating systems that cannot go beyond their normal heating load can all increase the likeliness of a freeze-up.
Here are just a few ways to prepare for freeze-ups:

  • Caulk, insulate, and weather-strip doors and close and seal dampers, louvers, and vents.
  • Install thermometers in building areas that normally have trouble with heating in order to monitor temperature during cold spells.
  • Determine which equipment and processes would be subject to freezing and update your emergency procedure to drain these systems if heat or electricity is lost.
  • Determine which equipment and processes would require continued heat or electricity for safety reasons and update your emergency procedure to treat these systems promptly under disrupted circumstances.

Snow Accumulation

Another wintertime risk is snow accumulation. Snowfall can clog drainage systems and significantly damage roofs, possibly even causing them to collapse. It is imperative to confirm that the roof and drainage system are in good condition before the snow begins each year, and to reinforce it as needed.

Listed below are several other ways to prepare for snowfall:

  • Inspect the roof for water ponding and eliminate the origins.
  • Determine the maximum “safe” snow depth for the roof via the live load capacity.
  • Determine the patterns of accumulated snow for the area.

Snow should be removed in uniform layers from the roof when it reaches 50% of the “safe” maximum depth, and should be done in verified safe circumstances to prevent injury or collapse.

Other Wintertime Hazards

Aside from freeze-ups and snow accumulation, the winter can present other problems such as slips and falls from puddles in the facility or out on an icy walkway, along with losing valuable data and even dealing with possibly disastrous electrical surges due to power outages.

Properly preparing for the winter, however, is only half of the work. After the cold weather sets in, businesses still have to regularly inspect and maintain all at-risk systems, as well as check the temperature of at-risk areas every few hours.

Both dedication to winter preparation and a follow-through of adequate maintenance can successfully prevent these disastrous and life-altering incidents.

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