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Snow and ice removal

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  • 1. Risk ControlSnow and Ice RemovalIntroductionWhen snow and ice accumulate on walking surfaces, the potential for slips and falls greatly increases. The propertyowner/manager must make a reasonable effort to reduce the potential for injury to their guests and patrons.Locations susceptible to this problem include hotels, shopping centers, supermarkets and office complexes. Tocontrol this exposure, property owners/managers should have an effective snow and ice removal plan in place.Case StudyThe following case involves injuries to a guest in a suburban hotel parking lot. Snow was removed from the parkinglot following several inches of snow on an early spring day. Two days later, a guest fell on ice while getting out of acar in the rear parking lot after a late night check-in. The fall resulted in serious injuries.On the day of the accident, records indicate a high of 37 degrees at 3 p.m. and a low of 28 by midnight.Temperature variations caused a thaw and refreeze to occur.The jury found the guest 20 percent liable due to his intoxicated condition but found the hotel 80 percent liable in anaward of $243,000.The Court of Appeals ruled that because the hotel “… invites guests to stay in its hotel and is aware that its guestswill park in its lot and walk from the lot to the hotel…” it has a duty; as a matter of law, to its patrons, to providesafe access from its parking lot to its building. It was entirely reasonable for the jury to consider… (the hotels)failure to salt and sand a breach of its duty of reasonable care under the circumstances particularly in Minnesotaafter a sustained snow fall in early spring where the temperature was fluctuating above and below freezing…”(Myersvs. Winslow R. Chamberlain Co., 443 N.W. 2nd Minn., 1991).Case Study ConsiderationsQuestions to be asked:• Was there a snow removal plan?• Is it “reasonable” given the geographic location and past history of snowfall in the area?• Was the plan followed?Some local ordinances may allow up to 24 hours for removing new fallen snow/ice from sidewalks and in front of thepremises. Compliance with such regulations may not diminish the liability for snow/ice-related accidents. Aviolation, on the other hand, is likely to result in statutory fines and may provide evidence of negligence. Having aplan and not following it or not having any plan at all will have the same adverse impact and will most likelystrengthen a negligence allegation.The determination of what is considered reasonable efforts in snow removal will depend on specific facts andcircumstances. It would be unreasonable to expect parking lots and walkways to be free of snow and ice in the
  • 2. Page 2Risk Controlmiddle of a blizzard. But, it is certainly reasonable to expect a property owner to remove snow and ice promptlyonce snow stops falling. Likewise, a prudent property owner of manager should take steps to identify and remove,repair or guard objects or conditions that could present hidden hazards under snow or contribute to theaccumulation of ice.Faced with the responsibility to control snow and ice hazards, the property owner/manager has two options. Thefirst consists of utilizing in-house personnel. There should be adequate staff and proper equipment to implement aplan.Due to the standby nature of snow removal activities, most organizations prefer the second option, which is usingcontractors specializing in snow removal. Even if a business has the capabilities to perform its own snow removal, itwould be prudent to at least have a contractor available on a standby call “just in case.”Contractor ConsiderationsContractors must be selected on their expertise, response times and capabilities. Verification of proper liabilityinsurance coverage is a must, too. An attorney should review the terms of all contracts; they may include holdharmless and indemnification clauses Certificates of insurance should be obtained and proper limits maintained.There should be a cancellation of liability insurance notice requirement in the contract. Certificates and contractsshould be obtained and reviewed annually.Management Considerations• Develop and implement a written plan. Determine who is responsible for carrying out the plan, contractor selection, maintaining of removal logs, frequency of removal, use of sand and or salt, and proper claim handling practices.• Designate someone to monitor weather conditions, walking surfaces and effectiveness of removal practices.• Record removal activities in a log. Information should include the individual’s name, estimated amounts of snowfall, ice buildup, temperature, action taken (called contractor, used plow, applied sand/salt), date and times, inspection notes and unusual conditions.• Use a professional snow removal contractor. Make sure invoices have details of services rendered.• Provide the right equipment if your employees do the work.• Post warning signs in high hazard areas.• Provide adequate lighting where possible.• Perform incident investigations promptly.Other Considerations• Allow sufficient time (if possible) for chemical treatments to take full effect.• Consider type of treatment for given conditions. Calcium chloride is more effective in extreme cold.• Be aware of refreezing• High piles of snow can reduce visibility around corners.• Melting of snow from piles of snow adjacent to a walkway can result in refreezing of water on the walkway.• Review drainage and puddle formation, correct if it is in frequent foot traffic areas.• Consider engineering controls such as heated walking surfaces when practical. Relocate downspouts if they discharge water onto walking surfaces.• Remove or provide warnings of “hidden” hazards that could be inadvertently struck by cars or trip pedestrians if covered by snow (fire hydrants, curbs, grates, etc.).Jurisdictional ConsiderationsEach municipality has its own ordinances or codes dealing with snow and ice removal. Each property owner shouldknow the requirements of the municipality in which they own and manage property. Likewise, states and counties
  • 3. Page 3Risk Controlmay have statutory and/or case laws that establish or influence the level of care or specific activities associated withproperty care, maintenance and liability. Some duty of care is typically owed even to protect trespassers onproperty. Consulting an attorney and municipal authorities can help you better understand your rights andobligations and make the appropriate decisions to protect people on your property and therefore yourself.SummaryThe first line of risk control and defense against snow- and ice-related accidents is a well-planned strategy andimplementation of a snow and ice removal plan. A limited amount of liability for losses can also be transferred ifremoval operations are subcontracted out to others. From a post loss standpoint, having and following an effectiveplan goes a long way toward fulfilling the obligations owed to the general public. A proactive approach rather than areactive one or none at all will be viewed favorably.Sample Snow and Ice Removal Log Date Time Weather Action InitialsThis sample format or some other appropriate method of logging maintenance activities can be used.For more information, visit our Web site at travelers.com/riskcontrol, contact your RiskControl consultant or email Ask-Risk-Control@travelers.com. ..................................................... The information provided in this document is intended for use as a guideline and is not The Travelers Indemnity Company intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant and its property casualty affiliates that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or One Tower Square guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers or any of its Hartford, CT 06183 subsidiaries or affiliates be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state or local laws, regulations, standards or codes may change from time to time and the reader should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law. travelers.com © 2008 The Travelers Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Doc#: 614