Is risk management boring? To some readers the risk management column may seem to indicate everything normally seen on a site can represent a potential safety concern. The unfortunate reality is this is true.
Is risk management boring? To some readers the risk management column may seem to indicate everything normally seen on a site can represent a potential safety concern. The unfortunate reality is this is true. The purpose of the column is educational, to provide the real examples of conditions that have resulted in law suits. There are many. You cannot manage the risks without first identifying and understanding them.
Sidewalks are no exception. Last month's edition of Snow Magazine contained a photograph documenting an example of a spalling concrete sidewalk. While concrete spalling does result from the misapplication of melting materials, it can also be an inherited maintenance concern for snow removal professionals. Past concrete sidewalk damage, such as spalling, along with tilting slabs, on designated pedestrian walkways represent premises liability concerns by themselves. The collection of mud in low lying areas exacerbates the potential for a slip. This concern further exacerbated during the winter months when collected drainage freezes or when a muddy condition is concealed by snow, increasing the potential for an unexpected slip, injury and possibly a lawsuit.
One risk management strategy for winter property maintenance sidewalk work, suggested in "Managing Snow and Ice," is avoiding sidewalk work altogether. This is not always possible. Where sidewalk work cannot be avoided or where the snow professional wishes to capitalize on sidewalk work, as pointed out in Randy Goings' August 2011 column, the risks can still be identified and managed. Areas on sidewalks where ponding occurs areas should be identified to the owner/property manager. As with parking lot deficiencies, these are easily seen right after a rain. They can also be identified by the collection of mud and debris in the area. These areas will require monitoring and follow-up applications of ice melt. If you take on the responsibility for sidewalk work, assign the appropriate resources to monitor and address the issue as needed. In those situations where the snow professional does not want the responsibility for sidewalks or is not offered that work, the contract should reflect that fact and equitably establish who is responsible for winter property maintenance work in that area and for follow-up. This provides the basis of a strong defense should an incident occur.
Is risk management boring? It is your liability, manage it as you will.
Editor’s Note: The purpose of this column is to educate snow professionals and assist them in making informed choices about controlling liability. This is not intended to be legal advice.