BLOG NUMBER 19.54
Business owners carry many heavy responsibilities. One such burden is the health and well-being of the individuals patronizing their premises. That said, the winter season presents certain challenges said individuals must be aware of and account for or risk facing potentially serious consequences.
Commercial entities are required to adhere to a civil law principle known as premises liability. This mandates that commercial establishments have a legal duty to ensure they provide a safe atmosphere for those with whom they conduct business. Furthermore, the principle further demands that business proprietors warn customers of any known hazards.
Potential Winter Hazards Business Owners Face
Extreme cold and icy precipitation like snow and ice has the potential to create several significant hazards business owners must contend with including:
Consistent periods of temperatures under the freezing mark places a building’s pipes at risk for freezing. This event could have several serious outcomes.
First, frozen pipes inhibit the building or office in question’s heating system from functioning properly. Excessively cold temperatures are unpleasant and uncomfortable to frequent and work in. Moreover, such conditions might even compromise the physical health of those forced to endure them.
Additionally, frozen pipes might ultimately burst. Said circumstances could precipitate flooding. Flood waters can quickly destroy surrounding property. Furthermore, water-logged buildings are often breeding grounds for potentially hazardous materials, such as bacteria, viruses, mildew, and mold.
Winter is known to produce severe ice and wind storms capable of damaging commercial property. Destruction could take the form of relatively simple fixes like shattered windows to major structural damages. Regardless, any type of harm done to a business’s offices carries the potential to injure said establishment’s visiting clientele.
These problems could enable harsh elements like cold air and precipitation to enter said grounds or cause potentially injurious or fatal events like falling debris or building collapses.
Slip And Fall Incidents
Arguably, the most common liability concern winter weather brings to business establishments is the threat of slip and fall accidents.
Snow and ice create quite slippery and sometimes downright treacherous conditions in locations, such as:
*Exterior parking lots
*Entrances and exits
When not frequently and appropriately cleared of such possible dangers, patrons stand at a heightened risk of slipping and sustaining injurious falls.
Consequences Of Not Addressing These Concerns
Establishment proprietors who fail to identify and appropriately remediate the preceding ills could be subject to a civil action known as a lawsuit. Premises liability falls under the purview of personal injury law and, as previously discussed, said subjects are required to adhere to a duty of care and maintain a safe environment.
Should an injured party convince a court or other judging entity that the commercial outfit in question knew about and failed to address the issue, the business could be forced to remit monetary damages to the suing individual.
Such events could have serious financial consequences. At the very least, the establishment will need to hire an experienced legal team to defend them against said charges. Legal fees can be quite costly, especially if civil proceedings drag on for any appreciable duration.
Furthermore, if the ruling body finds the business liable to any degree, the medical expenses, lost work time, and other damages the plaintiff sues for could be substantial.
Preventative Measures Businesses Can Take
Fortunately, commercial entities might be able to eliminate or greatly reduce their risk of encountering such untoward and potentially crippling events by taking certain precautions including:
Assessing Property Risk
Business proprietors are implored to hire professional services to conduct thorough checks of the property to ensure said premises can withstand severe winter weather. Entities to contact include:
*Exterior siding professionals
These establishments should perform a thorough inspection and promptly correct any identifiable problems.
Regulate Indoor Temperatures
Pipe freezing might be prevented through consistent temperature regulation. This means keeping thermostats set at no less than 72 degrees, ensuring less frequented enclosures like basements and attics are thoroughly insulated, and remediating cracks in foundations, roofs, or any other location where large concentrations of cold air can rush indoors.
Keep Outdoor Locations Clear
Businesses should enter contracts with plowing companies who can ensure parking lots and garages remain as clear and safe as possible. Additionally, proprietors are encouraged to place salt down on frequently traversed areas like walkways, stairs, and sidewalks before and during inclement weather events.
Provide Adequate Warning
In the event the business in question cannot perform the aforementioned duties, they must warn potential patrons of said dangers. Therefore, any area of their premises that is not completely safe should be either designated as such or even cornered off altogether.
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