Home Good to know Good to know : Aviva advice for heavy snow this winter

Good to know : Aviva advice for heavy snow this winter

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Aviva is warning businesses of the dangers of structural damage to premises due to significant weight loads as a result of heavy and repeated snow events.

Alistair Smith, property risk manager at Aviva, said: “Last winter saw the coldest and most severe snow conditions in three decades, with no time for the repeated snow falls to melt. This meant a build up of layers created immense pressure on roofs and in some cases caused considerable damage to property and interruption to the day-to-day running of businesses.

Insurance has a vital role to play in supporting recovery but forward planning can reduce the risk of some incidents occurring as well as the effect of such events on the day-to-day running of a business.

“Before winter sets in, check roofs are in a state of good repair now before the more extreme weather hits. Then keep an eye on the weather forecasts and look out for visible signs that the roof may be under stress. A deflection of the roof or cracking, splitting or twisting in the joists, beams and girders could indicate a problem.

“The safety of staff and others within the building is of utmost importance so if there is any doubt about the integrity of a roof then the building or area should be evacuated until professional advice can be sought.”

Ice forms in gutters and drainpipes which results in them becoming blocked and consequently any melting snow or rain is unable to drain away from the roof. Also, when heavy snow melts during the day, it can sometimes flow under the roof tiles, and then refreezes at night. After several melting-freezing cycles tiles may be displaced, and water may enter the roof space, damaging insulation and ceilings.

Aviva has prepared some tips and advice to ensure property owners are prepared for heavy snow this winter:

– Roof collapses occur when the snow load exceeds the design load for the roof. Large roofs can be a problem as they may be less well structurally supported but problems can also occur where the roof lines are staggered, resulting in snow building up, sliding or drifting onto lower levels. Be careful not to introduce additional weight to roofs, such as fixed machinery. Make sure the roof is properly maintained.  If the damage is as a result of normal wear and tear any claim may not be paid.

– Any work on roofs and gutters will involve working at height so a full risk assessment should be carried out and a safe method of work established by a competent person.  The danger of going on to a roof should not be underestimated and only those qualified to do so should be undertaking such operations.

– Inadequate roof drainage systems and those that are blocked by debris prevent rainwater and melting snow and ice from being able to freely drain away from roofs. Check drainage and guttering when the roof is checked. The recommendation is that roofs are checked and gutters cleared at least twice a year, again taking care to observe health and safety methods or call in expert advice.

– Snow drifts in open areas can accumulate on properties such as farms and barns that may be situated in remote areas. Regular and systematic building inspection should be a key part of any maintenance programme to help identify problems promptly, especially if expensive equipment is stored there.

– Repair or replace missing, slipped or broken slates and damaged or rusty cladding. Ensure there are no gaps or cracks in the cladding or flashing which could allow water to enter the property.

– Moss, which retains moisture, needs to be removed since it can cause slate to split into thin layers and can gradually erode all metals, particularly lead work. A seasonal brushing down is often all that is required to prevent excessive build up.

– Keep attics well ventilated to reduce the build up of snow and formation of ice dams. If portable heaters are being considered you should first seek approval from your insurance company and comply with any additional requirements that may be required. Ensure that fire risk assessments are updated to reflect the additional hazard.

Smith concluded: “By ensuring that maintenance schedules are in place and employees are on the look-out for tell-tale signs, property owners can reduce the likelihood of damage to property and business interruption caused by heavy snow this winter.”

Source : Aviva Press Release