Snow and ice cause a variety of health and safety hazards related to slippery walkways, downed trees, and the potential of icicles falling from roofs. Building managers, business owners, and private citizens alike can all have legal responsibilities to keep their properties safe for visitors. Your precise snow removal obligations will depend on your individual state’s law. However, we can all agree that snow and ice buildup are extremely dangerous and cause serious injury. In many cases, the responsible party’s obligations for a commercial property do not simply include snow shoveling but also plowing and the application of ice melt.
Snow Removal Business Responsibilities
Some employers may simply consider asking employees to take care of snow removal. It is important, however, to be aware that snow removal itself is risky, too.
Those with heart conditions, smokers, and people who have ingested any alcohol are at risk of injuring themselves while shoveling snow. Believe it or not, the risk of having a heart attack is many times greater while shoveling snow. However, these more vulnerable groups are not the only ones who are at risk. Shoveling snow is also dangerous if you are even mildly dehydrated or underdressed. It can also be a potential hazard to employees who are not familiar with safe snow removal techniques.
Simply said, employees might be risking their own health by engaging in snow removal duties. Therefore, companies asking ordinary and unequipped employees to shovel snow could face serious liability issues.
Hiring a Professional Snow Removal Service
This is why hiring a professional snow removal service is the best way to deal with extreme winter weather conditions. What are the precise responsibilities of a snow removal business, you ask? The duties of the snow removal company you engage will be defined in the contract you sign. Unless you cover all your bases, that means you may still remain responsible for the remaining snow removal tasks. Therefore, you may want to specify that you want the snow removal business you hire to:
- Ensure that walking surfaces, such as sidewalks and walkways, are free of snow and ice. Salt should be applied to make the surfaces less slippery. This should be done anywhere on the property where people may walk, including areas not open to the public.
- Shovel, plow, and de-ice parking lots.
- Monitor roof and gutters and take steps to ensure that snow, ice, and icicles do not fall on visitors, potentially causing injury.
Snow Removal Contracts
Business owners should outline the precise areas you need to have shoveled, plowed, and de-iced in any snow removal contract. The snow removal business has the responsibility to be transparent about the equipment they use to manage extreme weather. They must also clarify the time frame within which they will carry their obligations out, as well as how often their services will be performed. The company will remove snow from areas in which people frequent and will move it somewhere on your property until it melts. In some cases, however, the snow removal company hauls the snow that accumulated on your property off when they are finished with snow removal.
Even the best snow removal companies may not be able to take care of all your state-mandated snow removal responsibilities. You may have to fix your sidewalk and fix your gutters to face away from the property. Business owners who spot ongoing threats need to put up clear signs to warn their customers that ice is present or icicles may fall. In most cases, it is best to barricade off any especially hazardous areas. This, too, is something a snow removal business can help you with.
Additional Reading: City of Omaha Public Works – Snow Removal
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