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Snow/ice maintenance and winter property inspections

A worker clears snow after a snowstorm in front of a large office building. Copy paste.

When it comes to snow and ice maintenance, not all properties are alike. Snow and ice maintenance may be handled solely by on-site site staff or by a third party snow maintenance contractor. Sometimes, as is often the case with residential properties, a combination of both. Regardless of who is performing the work or conducting the inspection, it is crucial to be able to illustrate due diligence by maintaining adequate and consistent records of all snow and ice maintenance activity.

In addition to physical snow and ice maintenance, winter grounds inspections should be performed at least twice daily (AM/PM). Furthermore, formal contracts with snow maintenance contractors ensure risk is fairly allocated and exposure to litigation claims is reduced. 

Recordkeeping and snow logs

All snow maintenance activity and winter grounds inspections, whether being performed by site staff, contractor, or combination of both, should be consistently documented. Through the use of a standard snow log, the below is recommended to record as a minimum:

  • Location/address
  • Start date and time
  • Finish date and time
  • Extent of work performed (shovelling, de-icing/sanding, inspection only)
  • Pavement condition (clear, ice covered, snow covered, etc.)
  • Weather observations (type, amount)
  • Temperature
  • Type and amount of material used (e.g. de-icer, sand)
  • Person performing the work
  • Additional comments (items of concern, hazards, etc.)

Snow logs should be retained on file for as long as possible so that they are readily available in the event of a claim.

Winter grounds inspections

During the winter months, recorded exterior grounds inspections should be performed at least twice daily and recorded using a snow log to ensure entrances, pathways, and parking lots are free of obvious slip and fall hazards. Ice can form on surfaces when the temperature drops below the dew point, and snow and ice can thaw and refreeze on walking areas.

Snow maintenance contracts

When utilizing a snow maintenance contractor, a formal contract that has been reviewed by legal counsel should be in place that includes clearly defined scope of work and expectations such as:

  • Term of contract
    • Start and finish date
    • Contract price and payment provisions
    • Changes in the work provisions
    • Notice provisions
    • Clauses that determine who is to make the call as to when, and in what amounts, ice melting products are to be applied
    • Insurance provisions
    • Damage waivers
    • Reasonable hold-harmless or indemnification provisions
    • Termination and default provisions
  • Maintenance triggers
    • Snow/ice accumulations
    • Time to respond
    • Response times
  • Service areas
    • Snow & ice maintenance around parked vehicles
  • Snow storage areas
  • De-icing materials
  • Record keeping requirements
  • Responsibilities of on-site staff/monitoring
  • Contract includes site map (See Site Preparation/Inspection section below)
  • Signage provided on large snow piles stating “Danger – Do Not Enter” or similar
  • Invoicing         
    • Include requirement that all contractor snow logs to be provided prior to payment

Site preparation and inspection

Prior to the winter season, site inspections should be performed with the snow maintenance contractor and a site map prepared. The site map should be included in the contract and identify:

  • Areas to be serviced, such as:
    • Priority service areas
    • Walkways
    • Entrances/exits
    • Accessible parking stalls/ramps
    • Loading zones
    • Secondary service areas
    • Speed bumps
  • Areas not to be serviced
    • Areas that can be closed off (areas of low traffic, that have poor surface quality or any area agreed upon with the client and contractor)
  • Snow storage and stacking areas identified
  • Areas vulnerable (e.g. features and/or plants) to de-icing materials
  • Vehicle impact hazards (e.g. hydrants, curbs, phone boxes, light posts, islands, shopping cart stations, etc.)
  • Areas where ice may build or snow may accumulate based on previous winter maintenance observations at site
    • snow fences
  • Items of concern
    • existing property damage (e.g. potholes, cracked curbs, uneven sidewalks)
    • areas with poor drainage/ponding issues
    • downspouts discharging onto walkways
    • building doors opening into prevailing winds
    • lawn sprinkler heads

By ensuring that adequate snow and ice maintenance/inspection logs are consistently maintained and formal contracts are in place with contractors, the likelihood of slip and fall incidents related to snow and ice, and exposure to litigation claims, can be reduced.