At commercial, residential, and institutional properties, the property manager is responsible for maintaining a safe premises, which includes snow and ice management. Typically the removal of snow and ice is performed by a contracted third party, but in some cases the property manager or their staff perform these duties.
In this article, Architect and Premises Safety Expert, Albert Kerelis, details a property manager’s responsibilities for snow and ice removal.
Snow & Ice Removal: Property Manager Responsibilities - Expert Article
Property Managers are expected to maintain safe walking surfaces. ANSI has set standards for snow and ice removal, and in the commentary to ANSI Standard A1264.2 states that snow and ice removal should be considered as emergency work. Some municipalities have adopted codes and ordinances outlining a property owner’s responsibilities not only for their property, but also for public sidewalks around their property as well. Throughout the season, PMs should document their efforts during and after a snow or ice event.
Improper snow and ice management can lead to slips and injuries. It is important for a Property Manager to effectively plan, prepare and oversee their snow removal contractor as well as the performance of their maintenance personnel so as to avoid accidents.
Proactive Property Maintenance & Inspection
It’s important for the PM to make plans for snow and ice removal well ahead of the season. These efforts should be properly documented. This includes, but is not limited to, checking on such items as:
- Gutters and downspouts are in good condition and clean.
- Gutters and downspouts should drain away from walking surfaces including parking lots.
- Exterior steps and stairs should be inspected to make sure they are non-slip, not deteriorating, and that their handrails are secure.
- Sidewalks and walkways should be inspected for tripping hazards.
- Sidewalks and walkways should also be inspected for low spots which can become prone to icing during a thaw/freeze cycle if they don’t drain properly.
- Parking lots need to be inspected for their condition, low spots and drainage.
Contracting Snow Removal Services
The responsibilities of the company hired to remove snow and ice should be clearly identified in a contract. Their duties typically include plowing, shoveling, de-icing, monitoring, and snow removal, or a combination of these services.
Anything not included in the snow removal contract is the responsibility of the property manager, so they should have a plan in place and the appropriate equipment and supplies. Snow removal contract services often have a “trigger” for when they begin. Often this is “snowfall greater than 1”: however, even less than an inch of snowfall can require some treatment or removal to avoid unsafe walking conditions. In areas where ice storms are common, consideration should also be given for de-icing after an event.
Planning, Communication, and Monitoring of Contracted Snow Removal
No matter the size of the property, plans must be made for where snow will be piled. Good practice dictates that the contractor be provided with a plan of the site indicating where they should pile snow. This plan can then be distributed to their staff who will be performing the service. Piles should be placed in areas where snowmelt will not run off into walkways or pedestrian paths, but drain into landscaped areas or drains where it cannot pool and freeze.
During the season, the property manager should monitor the weather forecast and plan ahead for upcoming weather events, while also monitoring the work done by contractors or staff. Inadequate work or work not performed should be documented and reported as soon as possible and corrective action taken. If it is the property manager’s staff performing shoveling and de-icing of sidewalks and walkways, the PM must document their work.
Known problem areas and areas most highly trafficked by pedestrians and vehicles should be monitored closely. These include:
- Low spots or areas with poor drainage
- Exterior handrails
- Pavement and walkways where black ice can form in the days following a storm.
SLIP, TRIP, AND FALL INVESTIGATIONS
The Premises Safety team at Robson Forensic is trained to investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of residential, institutional, and commercial premises. We conduct site investigations, perform tests, and review applicable standards and discovery documents to learn facts and form opinions about how and why individuals were injured within the built environment.
Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert
Albert Kerelis is an architect with over 25 years of experience in building design, construction administration, and property management. Mr. Kerelis has extensive experience in Property Management, from the perspectives of both owner and manager, involving residential and commercial properties. Albert developed, constructed, and managed multiple properties, seeing them from acquisition and zoning approvals to site improvements, general contracting, and ongoing maintenance. As a result, Albert has extensive experience in walkway and parking lot maintenance, building maintenance codes and compliance, building repairs and renovations.