6 Costly Winter Business Risks

rsz_computerwithphone by Tim Parker on December 20, 2013
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Everybody loves the first snowfall of the year, but winter also brings some challenges for many people. Some of those annoyances, from accidents to illness, can cost your small business money. Here are six winter-related risks and tips for mitigating them.

1. Flu — Flu season peaks in late January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the flu sweeps through your office, productivity will plummet, costing you money. Encourage employees to get vaccinated or, even better, develop a vaccination program where employees can get vaccinated on company time. Next, ask workers who are clearly sick to go home — and stay there — until they feel better.

2. Fire — Did you put up holiday decorations in the office? According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees [PDF] are a significant cause of fires. Add to that decorative candles, malfunctioning heating units, and employees’ personal space heaters, and it’s easy to see why fire departments stay busy in the wintertime. To avoid problems, don’t leave holiday decorations unattended, have your HVAC system serviced regularly, and make sure tree lights and heating units are turned off before you close up shop each day.

3. Deer Strikes — Believe it or not, deer strikes account for about 1.5 million accidents per year, 150 deaths, and more than $1 billion in automobile damage. Each accident not only results in a repair bill, but also may put one of your fleet vehicles out of service, costing you even more. The best way to avoid an accident is to slow down, use your high-beam headlights when needed, and don’t swerve into another lane to avoid hitting an animal, because you may cause a head-on collision.

4. Heart Attacks — Before sending an employee outside to shovel snow, consider that people who are in poor physical shape or have certain medical histories may risk a heart attack or stroke when moving heavy snow in freezing conditions. What’s more, injuries such as back injuries and other exertion-related issues are common and may lead to missed work and/or workers’ compensation claims. If the snowfall is substantial, pay a professional to remove it. You’re likely to spend less than what you’ll lose in the event of an accident.

5. Ice-Related Falls — Nearly every business owner fears being sued by someone who’s slipped on ice on their premises. Keep plenty of salt on hand and, if you’re serious about winter safety, check out the products available for heating the walkways around your facility. Encourage customers and employees to use handrails, walk slowly, scan the area in front of them, and don’t text or talk on the phone while walking outside.

6. Seasonal Blues — Cold, dreary weather can get old fast.  With everybody stuck inside, tempers can flare, depression can set in, and productivity can fall. Organize a morale booster like a holiday party, a catered lunch, or an after-hours bowling match. Be extra positive and deliberate in your praise. If you can afford it, encourage your staff to join a gym and subsidize their membership fees. It’s not easy to stave off the seasonal blues, but being mindful of office morale can help.

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