Risk Management During Cold Weather Months
By: Taylor Overton
As a part of the Risk Assessment Team at Continental Underwriters Inc. my role allows me to represent both the insurer and insured – analyzing risk exposure as a partner and representative of each. One of the ways we do that is through Property Risk Assessments, where we examine each insured’s type of operation, building/equipment configuration, and review Property Conservation Programs that ensure the longevity of continued operations.
One of my favorite parts of this exercise, and the part that is most helpful to business owners, is identifying areas of risk and making practical recommendations for remediation. We have at least one member of our team in the field every day, and because our sole focus is on the Wood Products Industry, it gives us great visibility and insight into common risks our clients face. As we inch toward colder temperatures, I wanted to share a few weather-related risks that manufacturing operations and managers should be aware of.
Leave Your Household Items at Home
One of the most common issues I come across, no matter the season, is the use of household heating and cooling sources. Specifically, I’m thinking of household fans and toaster-type space heaters. Not only are these items not created for use in an industrial sawmill environment, where dust buildup is common, but they are also prone to overheating with prolonged use – or being left on and forgotten altogether.
There’s an easy and safe substitute for these household items. Owners and managers should be vigilant about using Underwriter Laboratories (UL) certified products, which undergo rigorous testing to ensure that they are safe for prolonged use in commercial/industrial atmospheres. UL Listed products are better suited for the harsh conditions that can exist inside your facilities. Just check for that familiar UL tag, which alongside an ongoing maintenance program, will aid in keeping you safe.
Hot Work Procedures for Torpedo Heaters
Oftentimes, especially in open-sided structures, I’ll see a torpedo heater – with its potent open flame – being used to generate human warmth, as opposed to temporarily heating equipment.
When utilizing open-flame heat in an industrial zone, it’s critical to follow all Hot Work Program guidelines. This includes the temporary use of torpedo heaters. The key here is creating a space for heightened awareness around potential dangers and using torpedo heaters for their intended purpose, not for personnel.
Sprinkler System Water Management
In the event of an emergency, one of the most effective tools in your toolbox is your sprinkler system. These systems are typically designed with location-appropriate weather conditions in mind. Interior/non-exposed areas tend toward wet systems and exterior/exposed areas typically opt for a dry system. Regardless of the system, it’s imperative that your organization develop maintenance plans and checks.
With a wet system, you want to make sure you maintain a minimum temperature of 42°F for optimal water flow and perform daily/weekly checks of all valve houses and risers. On a dry system the risk is condensation buildup. Businesses will want to establish a checklist that includes daily monitoring and draining low points on a weekly basis. These activities will ultimately reduce rust (with the dry system) and help you avoid the cost of a burst pipe, or worse yet, an inoperable system unable to combat an imminent fire risk.
Protect Your Assets
Make preventative maintenance a priority. Establish checklists, systems, and hold regular educational safety meetings to help your team understand and avoid serious risks before they pose a threat. This is particularly important in environments that are less accustomed to extreme weather events and aren’t habituated to daily procedures, like snow removal in the US’s northern-most regions. It’s easier to maintain a higher level of caution when you do something on a regular basis, so I often take special care to site the importance of these safety precautions in regions where the perceived risk is lower.
Lastly, the level of care you maintain on your primary structure should be mirrored on any secondary structures. You’ll want to make sure safety devices, such as fire hydrants, are visible and safe from on-site damage. You’ll also want to have processes around snow load for ancillary buildings housing critical equipment or being used for storage. Daily/weekly property inspections are prudent.
We understand that weather-related precautions may seem overwhelming at times to both business owners and those who insure them. That’s why our risk assessment team is always willing to lend a fresh set of eyes and pick up on hazards that may otherwise go unnoticed. This is just another way we apply quality, passion, and expertise to your ultimate success.