Cold Weather Business Risks — Stay Protected With These Tips
Winter is quickly approaching, bringing with it a number of risks from roof collapses, hot-work related fires, and fires resulting from the use of alternate heat sources. Here are some tips to stay protected from common cold-weather business risks.
Risk #1: Heat Sources
There is no question heat sources can pose a serious fire risk. The National Fire Prevention Association estimates that each year between 2012 and 2016 local fire departments responded to an average of over 50,000 fires involving heating equipment. Nearly half of these fires occurred in the winter months of December, January, and February.
- Only UL approved devices should be used to stave off the cold. UL Listed equipment has been tested and approved to be used in dusty, commercial spaces. UL is one of only a few companies approved by OSHA to test and certify equipment.
- Electric Infrared Heaters designed for dusty environments are the preferred means of providing heat for employees.
- Torpedo heaters should not be used for personnel heat. If torpedo heaters are in use, they should be treated as hot work and the hot work permit procedure should be utilized.
- The use of wood-burning stoves inside buildings is strongly discouraged. If wood-burning stoves are in use, the following procedures should be in place:
- Ensure there is a clean and clear radius of 15 feet or more around the unit.
- Implement a formal policy outlining safety procedures that should be adhered to when a wood-burning stove is in use; such as when you should and should not add wood, and discontinuing the use of the stove at least 3 hours before the last shift.
- Inspect the structural integrity of the furnace(s) daily.
- A fire extinguisher should be present at each stove.
- Exhaust away from the building and combustible material.
- Monitor Creative Employees:
- Do not allow employees to bring their own heaters.
- Monitor breakrooms for “homemade” heat sources.
- Ensure compressor rooms do not become breakrooms.
- Materials such as coats, hats, gloves, and other flammable items should not be stored on or near any heat sources.
Risk #2: Building Integrity
Weather conditions like extreme cold, snow accumulation, and high winds add stress to a structure that can lead to major property damage or personnel injury.
- Regularly inspect all buildings for structural integrity.
- Avoid snow load on rooves.
- Keep snow/ice clear around buildings to prevent loaders from sliding into them.
- Check for snow-weighted trees/limbs hanging over buildings.
- Immediately repair any structural issues identified.
Risk #3: Sprinkler Systems
The most obvious sprinkler system cold weather hazard is frozen pipes, leading to a blockage or worse yet—a ruptured pipe leading to flooding. When temperatures drop, it is generally recommended to ensure no pipes are exposed to temperatures nearing 20 degrees.
- Conduct frequent inspections of wet and dry sprinkler systems to minimize the potential for frozen or burst pipes. This should include:
- Draining condensation in dry systems.
- Ensuring proper minimum temperature is maintained around wet systems.
- The use of open flame to thaw pipes should be treated as typical hot work and the hot work permit procedures should be followed.
- Promptly notify Continental Underwriters, Inc. of any impairments to your sprinkler systems by submitting an impairment form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Risk Assessment Team at email@example.com.