Winter Road Conditions and Automobile Dealers
Help ensure the risks of slip and fall incidents, slippery roads, sidewalks, floors, burst pipes, and injury or damage due to falling ice or snow don’t affect your business with sound risk prevention advice.
As Canadians, we are all well aware that winter brings with it unique set of risk challenges. Help ensure that all areas of your operation are ready for the winter ahead before it arrives. A walk-through of the dealership’s property and premises is suggested to help identify and correct any areas that can pose a hazard to employees, customers, inventory, or your buildings. Winter tune-ups are, in general, an important aspect of risk prevention and can help guard against the types of claims common to cold weather months.
This time of year is busy for auto dealers as you urge your customers to bring in their vehicles for winter tune-up maintenance and snow tires. We agree that customer vehicles should have winter tune-ups, even as we note that dealers often forget to tune-up vehicles in their own fleets. Since your vehicle fleet represents your business, and transports your customers and staff, it is vital that these vehicles be kept in the best possible condition. Snow tires are recommended for all company use vehicles including courtesy or loaner vehicles. It is also very important, especially during winter months, to ensure fluid levels are well topped-up and that windshields, mirrors, headlights, and taillights are kept clean and clear.
Winter can prove to be unpredictable and extremely hazardous both on feet and wheels. Keeping roadways, sidewalks, and lots clear and dry at all times can be an almost impossible task, so we suggest dealerships consider contracts with outside snow removal companies, whenever possible. If you are considering an outside source, it is important to ensure that the company you select carries appropriate insurance coverages and limits of liability. Contact your insurance broker for further advice in this regard.
If you, as many dealers do, plan to complete your own snow clearing, it is important that all surfaces be kept as clear as possible at all times. All snow removal, including salting and sanding efforts, should be documented for possible defense purposes in the event of an incident on your premises. Last winter, there was a shortage of road salt in much of Ontario and Quebec due to the numerous snow and ice-related events. This may be a good opportunity for you to stock-up on the necessary supplies in case of another shortage this winter.
Dealerships should also consider operational and building tune-ups prior to the onset of winter. It usually is not until heating equipment is required that most dealers will turn-on or test these systems and discover a problem. It is always a good idea to test equipment well in advance of the heating season. Often times, service calls are more reasonably priced and easier to book during the off-seasons and this will help ensure all systems are ready when required. Since the roof is likely to be accessed at this time, it is also a good opportunity to inspect and ensure that roof drains and basins are free-flowing and clear of debris.
In order to prevent possible plumbing problems, sprinkler system damage, or other issues, it is important to ensure adequate and consistent heating is available throughout all areas of your facilities. With many new buildings going up across the country, we note a spike in water damage claims following the first few major freezes each winter.
Areas such as vestibules, shipping and receiving areas, garbage rooms, electrical rooms, and even sprinkler rooms are often located on the exterior walls of buildings and are not equipped with consistent heating. Maintaining a temperature of at least 10 degrees Celsius for buildings with sprinkler systems is important. Also, consider how long your building will be able to maintain a safe temperature in the event of a prolonged power outage. In recent winters, many dealers have had to resort to backup generator systems during extended power outages.
We occasionally note the use of portable electric heaters in areas of buildings without a proper or consistent heat source. While these heaters will get the job done, they are not recommended for your occupancy. If they must be used, they should be plugged directly into a wall outlet and not into an extension cord or power bar. These types of heaters must never be used in body shops or mixing rooms as they are a potential source of ignition. Always be sure the area surrounding such a heat source is kept free and clear.
Consideration should be given to controlling and minimizing wet floors throughout the facility, especially during the winter months. This is an issue most dealerships are aware of with respect to customer facing areas, but many dealerships do not exercise the same level of awareness and precaution in the service shops and parts departments. Non-slip mats and/or runners should be installed at all entrances. Wet floor signs and mops should be kept close to public entrances for quick clean-ups during the winter season.
With a little extra vigilance during the winter months, dealerships may be able to prevent more claims from slipping into their loss ratios.