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2021 Winter Risk Management Checklist

December 02, 2021 Risk Solutions Staff


As the thermometer plummets this winter, employees who work outdoors are susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related illnesses. Icy roads contribute to traffic accidents, and frozen pipes can cause flooding that destroys facilities and equipment.

Use this checklist as the starting point for a comprehensive action plan that protects your productivity, your budget, and most importantly, your employees this winter.*


Navigate flu season

It's possible to get infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Fortunately, many best practices that help control COVID-19 are also effective against the flu.

Plan, equip, and train your employees to work safely in the cold.

Some forms of cold stress can set in during relatively mild 60-degree temperatures, especially when combined with moisture. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because when our body temperature drops too much, we could have trouble thinking clearly.

Follow these carbon monoxide safety tips

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, potentially deadly gas. The risk is higher during the winter, when fuel-burning equipment is used in spaces where windows and doors have been sealed to keep cold air and wind out of a facility.

Remind employees to use space heaters safely.

Improperly used space heaters can ignite carpet, paper, boxes, and other flammable material. Because space heaters have no flame, it is easy to lose sight of the danger. In fact, space heaters account for about 80 percent of fire-related deaths during the winter, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Keep sidewalks, parking lots, and other walkways clear of ice and snow.

In the education services sector, slips and trips account for about 35 percent of injuries that cause employees to miss work last year, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation. Strain-related injuries rank second at about 22 percent.

Leverage free resources

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Ice on tree branchesLearn from Winter Storm Uri

The annual Farmer’s Almanac predicts another frigid winter, though not as extreme as what Texans experienced in February. Winter Storm Uri lessons learned include establishing relationships with reputable water remediation vendors now, before you need them.

Prepare your facilities

Burst pipes and water intrusion are leading causes of loss among Fund members with Property coverage. Many incidents can be traced back to quick temperature drops, poor insulation, and thermostats set too low.

Seal leaks and insulate pipes and faucets, especially if they are outside a facility. And don't forget to winterize your fire sprinkler systems.

Respond to leaks promptly

During Winter Storm Uri, the Fund advised members to control the damage associated with leaks by following these tips:

  1. Address leaks at the source.
  2. Remove standing water.
  3. Dry out water-soaked items.

Decorate carefully

Depending on their design and location, as well as the size of the room, holiday decorations can ramp up the risk of fires by blocking water from sprinkler heads. Suspended items that catch fire could also block a safe exit from the room. Remind staff to avoid hanging decorations from fire sprinkler heads, light fixtures, and ceiling tiles.

Verify that the Fund has an accurate inventory of your property.

Reporting an accurate inventory is an important duty of Fund membership. You can also leverage inventory system data to launch a preventative maintenance program that extends the life of your property and saves money for your organization.

Leverage free resources

Watch our recorded webinar titled Prepare Your Facilities to Weather the Cold. Our expert shares tools for protecting against winter power surges/failures, flooding, boiler breakdown, roof damage, and other cold- weather risks.

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Ice on busGive your vehicles the special care they need.

Properly maintaining your vehicles can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs and keep each vehicle in safe operating condition.

Follow our expert's advice to protect your batteries

TASB Auto Claims Manager Erika Hickey noted that cold weather drains vehicle batteries. Erika advises Fund members to remove batteries before severe, sustained cold weather that comes with winter storms.

Promote safe driving

Traffic accidents are consistently the leading causes of workplace fatalities across industries. Winter snow and ice make driving a slippery proposition. Share these best practices with everyone who drives on organization business. Your transportation department should monitor road conditions and steer drivers clear of hazards by changing travel schedules, finding alternative routes, or canceling routes.

Put a cold weather kit in every vehicle.

If you invest in a fleet management program that includes routine maintenance and driver training, you’ve taken steps to help employees get from Point A to Point B safely. But accidents and breakdowns happen. Prepare employees for the worst-case scenario by equipping each vehicle with a cold weather kit.

Verify that the Fund has an accurate inventory of your vehicles.

Reporting an accurate inventory is an important duty of Fund membership. You can also leverage inventory system data to launch a maintenance program that extends the life of your vehicles and saves money for your organization.

Leverage free resources

Fund members with Auto coverage can take advantage of online training at no additional cost. Courses teach driver safety principles and strategies for managing problem behaviors on buses.

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Before winter break

Make sure software security updates, patches, and backups are set to run while staff and students are gone.

Computer code

Publicly disclosed cyberattacks against schools exploded by 235 percent between 2018 and 2020, according to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center

Shoring up your security will help protect your stakeholders’ privacy and your organization’s reputation.

Set thermostats to at least 50 degrees if possible, and keep boilers running.

Burst pipes are a leading cause of loss among Fund members with Property coverage, and thermostats set too low are a leading cause.You should also open doors to sink cabinets and other areas that have pipes with water. Finally, don't forget about concessions and other smaller facilities that have water sources.

Remind employees to protect the organization from holiday cyber-scams.

Cybercriminals are looking to cash in on holiday hustle and bustle. Employees should be alert for emails that include can’t-miss bargains, fake shipping confirmations, and notifications about fraudulent charges, especially when using district-owned devices.

Assign someone to check the mail regularly.

The Texas Workforce Commission; Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation, and other state agencies might deliver time-sensitive notices and forms that require a quick response. If you wait to respond until after the holidays, you may be subject to a penalty, or you could waive important rights to contest Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation benefits.

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*This InsideRM article was originally published in December 2020. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. The checklist provides an overview, not a comprehensive list, of winter risk management best practices. For more guidance, use the related resources and collaborate with your TASB risk solutions consultant.

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