— By Bob Lester —
Keep your outdoor walkways as safe as your interior floors: How to avoid parking lot slips and trips this winter.
The weather has gotten colder, precipitation in many regions of the country has turned into snow, and the likelihood of accidents caused by slick conditions has increased. While most restaurant and retail workers know to keep their floors clean and free of fall risks, they may not think about their outdoor walking spaces quite the same way. To keep customers safe this winter, retail managers, restaurant managers and other property managers need to think ahead and stay informed about the risks of seemingly minor problems, including cracks and holes in their parking lots.
Potholes are the most common parking lot problem, and they are only aggravated by colder temperatures and increased precipitation. In fact, what many people may not realize is that the worst kind of weather for pavement is cold nights followed by warmer days. This constant change in temperature causes the asphalt to fluctuate between freezing and thawing, which causes it to move and deteriorate much more quickly, resulting in cracks and potholes.
It’s also common for catch basins to fail in the winter, and, unfortunately, defects in parking lots aren’t just an eyesore — if not treated properly, they can cause unsafe driving conditions for customers and employees, as well as increase the risk of people slipping. To avoid potholes, drivers often swerve out of their lane, which can cause fender benders or even result in a pedestrian being injured.
Importantly, outdoor walkways and parking lots also have to be maintained to a certain level for public access, in accordance with the city code in which the business is operating. If the space becomes dangerous for consumers, businesses can receive warnings or even fines from the city until they are fixed. Managers are liable for damage or injuries and should always try to stay ahead of a reprimand by keeping their lots in great shape.
To avoid these dangerous, expensive and preventable liabilities, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Regularly monitor for any defects in the parking lot surface.
Being aware of any new cracks, holes or corrosion is the first step in keeping the property safe. Potholes can deteriorate very quickly once they’ve sprung up, so it’s important to keep a watchful eye.
- Fill cracks and holes in a parking lot immediately.
Cracks and holes need to be filled as soon as they start developing so they don’t expand in the cold temperatures. This avoidable and common problem leads to trip hazards and can even damage cars. While it may seem that spring is just around the corner and repairs can wait, March can bring plenty of bad weather and precipitation that damages pavement and concrete.
- Avoid using gravel or stone to fill in potholes.
Gravel or stone aren’t recommended because they quickly loosen and spread out around the pothole. If a property manager can’t immediately work with a professional to get hot mixed asphalt, asphalt cold patch can be used as a temporary fix.
- Purchase flags to mark concrete curbs.
Flags will hopefully prevent snow plows from hitting the curbs and damaging them, which could result in expensive repairs.
- Mark the potholes with traffic cones.
Emergency repairs can often be done in the winter, but if permanent repairs can’t be done until spring, the cones will ensure customers see — and avoid — the potholes. This will also help prevent customers from accidently stepping in a puddle and then tracking in slush that makes the floor inside a fall risk.
- Keep snow piles on the lower side of the parking lot.
When the snow melts, the water will run into the grass rather than sitting on the parking lot and causing refreeze issues in the pavement. Concrete and paving companies will often provide these kinds of services as well, so managers should do some research into local businesses that can help.
- Schedule an appointment now for the spring.
If a retailer or restaurant gets on a company’s calendar now, they will be a priority and their repairs will be done more quickly.
When in doubt, it’s always best to get a professional opinion about what action needs to be taken, preferably before potholes cause expensive vehicle damage. Restaurant owners and retail managers already have enough on their plates without adding a customer injury or vehicle damage to the list. And the last thing any restaurant wants is for a customer to fall and injure themselves, especially when a simple fix could have prevented the headache for everyone. In the end, it will be worth setting up an appointment to ensure their staff and guests are safe all winter.
— Bob Lester is co-founder, president and CEO of Dura-Seal, a sealcoating, asphalt and concrete services company in Columbus, Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.