Prevent roof collapses due to accumulated snow

The Metrodome roof collapse might be the most famous cave-in caused by an over-accumulation of snow. But businesses all across the country suffer roof collapses when too much ice and snow build up.

Flat and low-slope roofs are far more susceptible to damage because snow can’t easily slide off the way it does on more steeply sloped roofs. This makes commercial properties especially prone to collapse.

One square-foot of dry snow weighs about three pounds, while wet snow can add anywhere from 12 to 21 pounds per square foot of weight on your roof. Weight adds up fast as snow accumulates. 

Heavy snow load can put a dangerous level of stress on the structural integrity of a roof. Too much pressure can lead to cracked rafters, twisted trusses, and leaky ceilings. It can push a building out of plumb or, worst of all, trigger a total collapse.

Here’s what you can do to protect your business this winter:

Check with an engineer. Even if you haven’t noticed any warning signs, it’s still a good idea to have your building evaluated for structural safety. A qualified engineer can offer recommendations for how often your structure should be evaluated based on its age and construction. Always consult an engineer if your building shows any sign of structural damage, like cracked trusses or rafters. 

Hire professionals. Think twice before sending your regular maintenance team onto an icy, snowy roof to remove snow build-up. Contract with a professional firm that uses OSHA-approved fall protection and has proper insurance coverage for any rooftop work.

If you have a newer roof, double check with your roofing contractor to find the best way to remove snow from your roof without voiding the warranty.

A roof collapse can occur without warning. Protect your building and the people inside with prompt and proper snow removal. There’s no simple way to know how much snow is too much for your roof — it depends on the depth and density of the snow and the spacing of the rafters and trusses. 

Farming tips for avoiding manure runoff

Many livestock owners need to spread manure, even during the winter months. But winter snowfall and spring thaws can create challenges for manure management. When manure isn’t effectively absorbed into the soil, it can run off into surface water, ditches, and streams.

That means farmers must be attentive to the weather forecast when spreading manure. Manure should not be spread when the forecast is calling for rain or during a warming trend when snow is expected to melt.

Farmers also should avoid spreading manure on ice-packed ground. When the snowfall is interspersed with periods of rain and freezing, the ground may become saturated and frozen to the point where manure can’t effectively soak into the soil.

All in all, winter is a particularly risky time to be applying manure, and farmers are advised to wait for favorable conditions if they have the storage space. If soil is wet or frozen and a manure application just can’t wait, take special steps to reduce the risk:
  • Select the flattest fields: 2% slope for liquid manure, 6% slope for solid
  • Exceed minimum setback distances along streams and other boundaries whenever possible
  • Till along the end of the field and contours to create furrows to help capture runoff
  • Apply manure on fields with the most crop residue
  • Avoid applying to fields where furrows are full of ice and snow
  • Keep application rate low to avoid runoff or ponding during application
  • When possible, work manure into the soil immediately after application
Livestock owners should have contingency plans in place for disposing of manure when their own fields aren’t ready. Those plans might include a neighboring manure storage facility or neighboring farm fields.

Finally, know who to call if a runoff event does occur. Know your state’s spill hotline and call on their emergency resources when you need help.

Stay bright when hanging holiday lights

Shawn Miller was hanging Christmas lights at his mother’s home, decorating the trees that lined her front yard. As Shawn tossed lights up into the trees, one of the strings hit an overhead power line, sending voltage down into his body. Miller lost his left hand and suffered other serious injuries in the accident.

Today, he shares his story and speaks out on behalf of the Energy Education Council, a nonprofit dedicated to electrical safety. Follow these key safety tips for hanging your holiday lights this season:

  1. Use only lights that are intended for outdoor use. And use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) extension cord. GFCIs cut off power instantly, saving you from shock if an electrical problem occurs.
  2. Wait for a calm, dry day to hang your lights. It’s too hazardous to be on a ladder during wind, rain, or snow. 
  3. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that no more than three strands be hooked together unless the directions indicate otherwise. Be careful not to overload extension cords and power strips either.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings and stay clear of overhead power lines.
  5. Don’t staple through cords. This can damage the internal insulation and lead to fires. Use zip ties or specially designed light clips.
  6. Consider alternatives to hanging holiday lights, such as lawn d├ęcor, lights in low-level shrubbery, or color-changing flood lights. 
  7. Holiday lights aren’t designed for year-round exposure. Bring them indoors when the season is over.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in November and December each year, more than 15,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday decorating. Stay safe so you can enjoy all that the holidays have to offer.

Six tips to reduce desk strain and pain

Our bodies aren’t designed to sit all day. That’s why office workers are frequently plagued by complaints of sore shoulders, leg discomfort, and neck pain.

Limit your desk strain with these 6 tips:

1.    Keep moving. Take a break every hour or so for a mini workout. Stand up and stretch, do some squats, or even a few pushups if your space allows. 

A NIOSH study found that regular, five-minute breaks throughout the day increased productivity while reducing sore eyes and upper body pain.

2.    Walk and talk. Get your coworkers in on the action and take those one-on-one meetings outside for a walk.

3.    Look away. Staring at a computer screen all day can strain your eyes. Some doctors recommend a 20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and refocus on an object in the distance for at least 20 seconds.

4.    Sit right. Adjust your desk chair so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are about level with your hips. If your chair doesn’t offer lumbar support, place a cushion behind your back, or order an attachable lumbar cushion.

5.    Square it up. Your monitor should sit squarely in front of your chair, not off to the side. Position your monitor an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen just below eye level.

6.    Stand up. Try standing while you work. There are a variety of repositionable desks on the market that allow you to raise and lower your desk height throughout the day.

If you feel strain or discomfort at your desk, talk to your employer about ergonomic adjustments and alternatives. Chances are your employer will be receptive to small investments that improve your productivity and your health.

Keep it merry with holiday event insurance

'Tis the season for special events, and the time of year when people are most eager to support a good cause.

If you’re planning to deck the halls with a holiday party or fundraiser, make sure you protect your organization from liability claims with a special event insurance policy and earn yourself a spot on the “nice” list.

Check with your agent if you’re planning any of these common events:

Christmas galas, pictures with Santa, nativity scenes, holiday carolers, craft shows: The list of holiday happenings goes on and on. But before you string the lights and flip the switch on your holiday event, take a moment to check with your agent and make sure you’re covered.

Tree lots: Enjoy the magical moments as families pick their favorite tree or cut their own. It is kind of you to assist in wrapping the tree, but stay clear of loading. Even though you bring good tidings, it may result with a property damage claim.

Wagon and sleigh rides: You can go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house safely with the help of a special event policy. By meeting a few basic guidelines such as proper siding and railings, you can be sure you’re covered as you make your way through the snow.    

Don’t get caught without a SECURA Special Event insurance policy the night before Christmas. Because nothing says holiday humbug like a liability dispute.