Is your business ready for the winter?

Managing and mitigating snow load risks

The cold months are quickly approaching, and with them come snow, wind, rain and ice. Even though accidents happen all year round, there are several incidents that specifically occur during the wintertime.

In extreme events, heavy snow load can severely damage buildings, resulting in people getting injured or even loss of life. Damaged buildings can oftentimes also lead to business interruptions and other disturbances in the supply chain.

In this article, our Senior Claims Adjuster, Oddmund Bleie from Norway and our Risk Engineer, Stefan Nyberg from Sweden, share their knowledge on how to prepare your business for the Winter.

What’s your plan?

First and foremost, you need to have a plan. This plan should not solely cover the necessary steps after the accident has happened, it should also include all the preventive actions, that will help to reduce the risk significantly.

Make a risk assessment of your buildings

A massive snow load can pose a significant risk that may compromise building structures. Consider the stability of your own buildings and third party building that you are using. Even though, your storage facility may be a rented space from a third party, it is in your interest to understand any potential risks.

Ultimately, any damage to the structure can affect your business if something happens to your inventory. Ask yourself the following questions during your inspection: What is the structural integrity of the roof? Is it an old building? Has the structure weakened over time? Is the drainage system functional?

A frozen drainage system can cause snow and ice to build up on the roof. To avoid this, consider installing heating in the drainage system. This is especially important in geographical areas where the temperature frequently varies from below freezing to a milder temperature.

Put a team together

Who will you call if your production facility, warehouse or even your office building is covered with snow, and do you have the right type of equipment when the snow needs to be removed?

Snow removal is often a job for professionals, who are trained to remove snow safely, utilising professional methods. Apart from posing a significant risk of personal injury, unloading may, if done incorrectly actually cause more damage. If the load on the building becomes increasingly uneven during unloading, the entire building can collapse. Unskilled workers may also damage the roof when removing snow, causing water to penetrate the roof.

Furthermore, trained personnel will also consider the risk of potential risk caused to pedestrians, parked vehicles and other potential structures when removing the load on the roof. Taking appropriate measures here are critical to protect human life and property.

Follow the weather forecast

If the weather forecast predicts that a lot of wet snow will fall in a short period of time, then it can represent a significant danger. Snow followed by rain will increase the amount of water, which will ultimately affect the weight per square meter.

In a situation where there are already snow loads on the roof, this weather forecast should be a warning. The wet snow can increase the weight on the roof to a level where the risk of collapse shouldn’t be ignored.

Be aware of heavy loads in the snow pockets

Large amounts of snow can accumulate into wind pockets in sheltered areas, for example on flat rooftops, behind chimneys or between heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment installations.

More and more companies are powering their operations with solar panels that are placed on the roof of the building. Therefore, it is relevant to consider how the photovoltaic (PV) system in combination with heavy snow load can affect a building structure.

One thing to consider is that PV panels on low-rise commercial and industrial buildings can change the patterns of the wind flow and the snow accumulation.

Another concern has to do with old buildings, as added weight from PV panels on the roof, increases the demand on the structure of the building. It is important to understand the guidelines for your PV panels in respect to snow loads.

In If P&C, we are by your side, all year around. We will support you in your risk management work, so you can take care of your buildings, your personnel and your own safety. There are very many individual scenarios to consider and never a one-fits all solution to secure your business and personnel in the wintertime. We therefore strongly advise you to make a thorough risk assessment of your assets located in snow prone areas, and work with your risks in accordance with your findings.

Read our Snow Load Hazard Sheet, pdf (440KB), new window