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Your Winter Risk Management Checklist

November 24, 2020 David Wylie

Checklist

Winter introduces seasonal hazards that threaten Fund members’ resources. As the thermometer plummets, 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.*


People

Child getting a flu shotAction item 1. Don’t forget about the flu.

It’s possible to get infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Fortunately, many of the same techniques that mitigate COVID-19 can also work for the flu.

Action item 2. 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.

Action item 3. 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.

Action item 4. 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.

Action item 5. Keep sidewalks, parking lots, and other walkways clear of ice and snow.

In the education services sector, slips and trips accounted for 37 percent of injuries involving days away from work last year, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation. Strain-related injuries ranked second at 22 percent.

Leverage free resources

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Property

Ice on tree branchesAction item 1. Clear ice and snow from roofs and tree limbs.

Roofs could collapse under the added weight. Similarly, the weight of snow or ice can cause branches to break and fall on power lines, vehicles, or roofs. Claims involving roof damage are among the costliest claims filed by Fund members with Property coverage.

Action item 2. Seal leaks and insulate pipes and faucets, especially if they are outside a facility.

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. Don't forget about unoccupied buildings, where undetected leaks can lead to large losses.

Action item 3. Prepare your fire sprinkler systems for winter weather.

Like the pipes that deliver water to your faucets, sprinkler pipes can freeze and flood your facilities or, even more serious, fail to extinguish fires. Taking the time to properly winterize your system could save lives, so it is critical that every component remains in good working order all year long.

Action item 4. Remind staff to avoid hanging decorations from fire sprinkler heads, light fixtures, and ceiling tiles.

Depending on their design and location, as well as the size of the room, 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.

Action item 5. 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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Vehicles

Ice on busAction item 1. Give your vehicles the special care they need.

Belts and hoses crack easier when it’s cold. Tires lose pressure, and engines do not get properly lubricated without winter-appropriate oil. Properly maintaining your vehicles can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs and keep each vehicle in safe operating condition.

Action item 2. Reinforce winter driving best practices for anyone who drives on organization business.

Traffic accidents are consistently the leading causes of workplace fatalities across industries. Winter snow and ice make driving a slippery proposition. In fact, December was the deadliest month on Texas roads in 2019, according to Texas traffic accident statistics.

Action item 3. Monitor road conditions to reduce the risk of accidents.

You might be able to steer drivers clear of hazards by changing travel schedules or finding alternative routes.

Action item 4. 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.

Action item 5. 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

Action item 1. Make sure software security updates, patches, and backups are set to run while staff and students are gone.

Computer codeSchools are brimming with sensitive information about students, parents, and staff, making our industry a top target for cybercriminals. Reported public school cyberattacks tripled between 2018 and 2019. Shoring up your security will help protect your stakeholders’ privacy and your organization’s reputation.

Action item 2. Set thermostats to at least 50 degrees if possible, and keep boilers running.

You should also open doors to sink cabinets and other areas that have pipes with water. Remember, burst pipes are a leading cause of loss among Fund members with Property coverage – and thermostats set too low are a leading cause of burst pipes.

Action item 3. 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.

Action item 4. 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 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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