The Impact of Snowfall on Businesses and the Real Snow Removal Cost

In the northern U.S., we say that winter snow is what we get in exchange for comfortable summers. But managing the snow can be a challenge!

Snow removal costs can add up and this certainly takes a toll on businesses as well as households. What is the overall snow removal cost for businesses specifically--especially small businesses--and what strategies can they use to offset this cost? These are questions we'll be discussing in the paragraphs to follow.If you're busy making plans for dealing with this year's snowfall, keep reading to see what we have to say about it.

Snow Removal Cost

First, let us say that by "cost," we mean the monetary expenditures that literally keep accumulated snow under control. We also mean the lost revenues due to employee absence or late arrival, damages caused by the snow, and other less obvious costs.

Direct Snow Removal Cost

There are several variables to account for in budgeting for business snow removal service, including:

  • Length of sidewalk(s) to be shoveled or cleared by a snowblower
  • Size of parking area and any access roads to be plowed
  • Any salt or sand that's needed
  • Possibly a roof to clear

A rough estimate of snow removal prices for a small business is as follows:

  • Commercial parking lot: $50-150 per hour (sometimes includes salt/sand)
  • Shoveling or snow-blowing sidewalks: $25-75 per hour
  • Roof clearing: $250-500

Remember, this is for each snowfall, easily adding up to thousands of dollars a year. A business owner--especially one in the Northeast or Upper Midwest--would be wise to contract with one reliable snow removal professional for a whole season.

Indirect Costs of Snow and Ice

Although it might be expensive, it's not that hard to hire a snow-removal service for your business. The indirect costs can be trickier, though.

Employees Can't Get to Work

What do you do when most of your employees say they can't make it to work on the day of a snowstorm? For many, it's because they have young children who must stay at home due to school closures.

Others simply can't get to work--because of a non-plowed driveway, blocked roadways, delayed or non-operational public transit, or one of several contagious illnesses that accompany the snow each season.

Power Outages

The weight of snow and ice on power lines, as well as the winds that often come with blizzards, can knock out power to whole neighborhoods--sometimes even entire cities. This causes some specific problems, including:

  • Heat, water, and or electricity being out
  • Pipes freezing and/or bursting
  • Needing the weather to break before workers can safely reach the power lines
  • Unlit public areas that aren't safe for several reasons

It's easy to see the chain of unfortunate events that power outages might bring on and how those could affect a business.

Sporadic Deliveries

What if your business can't get essential deliveries due to the weather? Waiting a day or so might not be a big deal for some. But, what if you're a restaurant needing food for customers who might come in for a warm meal?

What if you're a hospital or clinic in need of life-saving supplies?

Slip and Fall Insurance Claims

It's essential to keep your business's walkways and parking lots clear of snow and ice. It's easy (maybe even tempting) for someone to accidentally slip and fall, and then files a claim with your business's insurance provider.

While handling this might be simple, it might end up in litigation. And this could take even more time and money away from your operation.

Building and Property Damage

Then, there are the physical costs of snow and cold weather. When ice forms in concrete sidewalks and parking lots, some cracking is inevitable. Roofs could collapse or have destructive ice dams form...Could we just say, "Winter. Ka-ching, ka-ching"?

Ways to Offset Snow Expenses and Inconvenience

With a little ingenuity and some help from today's remarkable technologies, it's possible to compensate for some of the frustration and setbacks brought by winter weather.

Keeping Pedestrian Areas Clear of Snow and Ice

Outsourcing snow and ice removal is often the easiest way to keep parking lots and walkways safe and passable. It's reasonably convenient but can be costly.

Another way to avoid most plowing and shoveling--as well as high snowplow rates and roof snow removal costs--is to have electric snow-melting systems installed. This could save your business time and money.However, there are advantages as well as drawbacks to each of these types of systems. You should get more information before committing.

A Clear Policy on Who Has to Come to Work and in What Conditions

For some employees, presence at the workplace is essential to its daily functioning--IT staff are one example. But these requirements and expectations need to be clear and unambiguous.

We'd recommend sharing a draft of the policy for feedback before implementing it. Be sure to be compliant with labor laws when developing and instituting this policy.

Some Employees Can Work from Home

One way to handle essential staffing needs when employees can't get to work is to help them set up home offices in advance of any emergencies. This might be a possibility for your IT staff, depending on how their home technology is set up.

But depending on the nature of your business, others--like bookkeepers, marketers, and even certain salespeople might be able to work from home easily.

Making telecommuting an option could have other benefits as well, such as having employees work from home when they have contagious illnesses that might otherwise spread to others.As with the foul weather policy just discussed, though, you will need an established telecommuting policy. Why not try it out? The world seems to be headed in that direction.

The Long Winter Ahead

Snow removal cost is an ongoing concern for businesses throughout North America, but especially in northern and mountainous locations. This cost is only augmented by other costs related to show, as we've discussed here.

But people in different climates have their costs to bear as well--for example, hot, often humid summers and the continual need for air conditioning, as well as year-round pest control.

For those living in the North, snow removal is just part of everyday life during certain months of the year.

If you ever need help cleaning up after a pipe breaks, an ice dam causes water to enter your building, or a parking lot needs to have sand from winter swept away, just let us know. You'll see that we offer a huge variety of services.

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