Fall Maintenance Tips for Business Owners
October 11, 2023
The changing seasons are an excellent time for property inspection and cleanup. You might have missed maintenance issues over the summer. Or maybe the heat and rain brought new issues to the surface. Add these tasks to your maintenance rundown to prevent injuries and damage.
Repair outdoor walking surfaces
Start your examination in the client parking lot. Walk around and check it out. Look for worn parking lot lines, cracks, potholes and uneven surfaces. Potholes can lead to tire damage. Walking surfaces with buckled cement or warped asphalt can cause a nasty spill. And all of these issues can lead to lawsuits and insurance claims.
If clients bring their kids, you have an added risk exposure. Walk your building from the perspective of a child. For example, do you have doors that lead into unsafe or restricted areas? A sign might deter an adult, but kids might not be able to see or read the sign.
Check your entryway for trip-and-fall hazards. Ironically, anti-slip mats and carpets can cause painful sprains and falls. Break out your winter snow mat to see if it’s ragged or torn. If it’s seen better days, get rid of it and invest in a new one before the snow flies.
Service your heating system
Have your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system professionally inspected. Your air conditioner may have been working on overdrive, but your heating may need some TLC. Give it a test run before the temperatures drop.
For optimal performance, replace your HVAC filters every three months for a typical office. Replace the filters more often if your work produces dust or other pollutants. Only use filters that are safe for your system. For example, high-efficiency particulate air filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) to indicate how effectively they filter contaminants. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filtration.
Higher MERV values also mean denser filter materials that require more force to push air through. If your HVAC system can’t handle a high MERV filter, it could decrease efficiency or damage your HVAC. Check with your HVAC manufacturer if you’re unsure.
Inspect your roof
Annual roof inspections can help you identify potential issues ahead of severe winter weather. Correcting minor problems in the fall can prevent further damage caused by snow, ice and cold weather. Use a certified roof inspector.
Remove debris and leaves
Clogged gutters mean water can’t drain away from your building. This can lead to water flowing toward your building, damaging the roof, siding and foundation. A cracked foundation can get worse if standing water freezes inside the fissures. And if standing water freezes on your roof, it could form ice dams.
Ice expansion can force water underneath your roof shingles, causing rot and leaks. Frozen water also adds weight to your roof, causing premature wear and risk of collapse.
Gutter cleaning supplies
If you or your maintenance staff will be cleaning the gutters, have these tools on hand:
- An extension ladder. Never use a damaged or worn ladder. You risk falling and injuring yourself.
- A standoff stabilizer. Stabilizers keep ladders from wobbling and protect gutters from the weight of the ladder leaning on them.
- A dust mask. Use a high-quality respirator, like an N95, to filter out small particles and mold spores.
- A tarp or ladder utility bucket. Placing a tarp on the ground near the ladder makes debris cleanup easier. If you use a bucket, make certain it’s safe to hook onto your ladder.
- Goggles. Use wrap-around goggles to keep debris from falling into your eyes. If you use a face shield to protect your face, wear goggles underneath for complete eye protection.
- Gloves. Choose sturdy rubber or synthetic-coated gloves that you’re comfortable in and that protect your hands from sharp debris. Beware of latex allergies when choosing gloves.
- Nonskid shoes. Choose closed-toe shoes with nonskid rubber soles for a solid grip on ladder treads.
Heights and ladder safety tips
Use a fall protection plan as falls are the top cause of workplace deaths.
Invest in a quality ladder. You might have different ladders for different maintenance tasks at your business. Outdoor work requires an extension ladder with anti-slip feet. Inspect your ladder every time you use it. If it’s damaged, discard it.
Check the ladder’s weight rating. Make sure it can hold your weight and the added weight of the materials you’ll be transporting. For example, if you decide to paint your gutters after you clean them, you’ll need to factor in the added weight of the paint cans.
Maintain three points of contact with the ladder. If you have to reach or lean so far that both hands leave the ladder, it’s time to dismount and reposition it.
Watch for shock hazards and electrical power lines
Choose a grounded or fiberglass ladder that doesn’t conduct electricity. This will help prevent electrocution. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety because your ladder is nonconductive. You can still get electrocuted by an arc flash.
Before you set up your ladder, check the area for power lines. Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. You don’t have to make contact with overhead electrical lines to be in danger. Electricity can jump its intended conduction path (the power line) and travel through the air in search of a new conductor, like lightning. It’s called an arc flash, and it could kill you. If you must work near power lines, contact the utility company to discuss the job.
Never use a pressure washer while on a ladder. Only use pressure washers while standing on the ground. Pro tip: If you’re using a cleaning solution in your pressure washer, make sure it’s safe to use around plants and shrubs.
Call your insurance broker if you have questions
Insurance doesn’t cover damage from lack of maintenance, misuse or infestations. So damage caused by neglected, clogged gutters is a hard sell on insurance claims.
Make autumn touch-ups a part of your maintenance routine, particularly after trees shed their leaves. You’ll prevent expensive problems and help maintain the structural integrity of your building. That’s good business!