Aviva advises businesses - prepare for heavy snow this winter

Article date: 29 November 2010

Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, is warning businesses of the dangers of structural damage to premises due to significant weight loads as a result of heavy and repeated snow events. 

Alistair Smith, property risk manager at Aviva, said: “Last winter saw the coldest and most severe snow conditions in three decades, with no time for the repeated snow falls to melt. This meant a build up of layers created immense pressure on roofs and in some cases caused considerable damage to property and interruption to the day-to-day running of businesses.

Insurance has a vital role to play in supporting recovery but forward planning can reduce the risk of some incidents occurring as well as the effect of such events on the day-to-day running of a business.

“Before winter sets in, check roofs are in a state of good repair now before the more extreme weather hits. Then keep an eye on the weather forecasts and look out for visible signs that the roof may be under stress. A deflection of the roof or cracking, splitting or twisting in the joists, beams and girders could indicate a problem.

“The safety of staff and others within the building is of utmost importance so if there is any doubt about the integrity of a roof then the building or area should be evacuated until professional advice can be sought.”   

Ice forms in gutters and drainpipes which results in them becoming blocked and consequently any melting snow or rain is unable to drain away from the roof. Also, when heavy snow melts during the day, it can sometimes flow under the roof tiles, and then refreezes at night. After several melting-freezing cycles tiles may be displaced, and water may enter the roof space, damaging insulation and ceilings. 

Aviva has prepared some tips and advice to ensure property owners are prepared for heavy snow this winter:

  • Roof collapses occur when the snow load exceeds the design load for the roof. Large roofs can be a problem as they may be less well structurally supported but problems can also occur where the roof lines are staggered, resulting in snow building up, sliding or drifting onto lower levels. Be careful not to introduce additional weight to roofs, such as fixed machinery. Make sure the roof is properly maintained.  If the damage is as a result of normal wear and tear any claim may not be paid.
  • Any work on roofs and gutters will involve working at height so a full risk assessment should be carried out and a safe method of work established by a competent person.  The danger of going on to a roof should not be underestimated and only those qualified to do so should be undertaking such operations.
  • Inadequate roof drainage systems and those that are blocked by debris prevent rainwater and melting snow and ice from being able to freely drain away from roofs. Check drainage and guttering when the roof is checked. The recommendation is that roofs are checked and gutters cleared at least twice a year, again taking care to observe health and safety methods or call in expert advice.
  • Snow drifts in open areas can accumulate on properties such as farms and barns that may be situated in remote areas. Regular and systematic building inspection should be a key part of any maintenance programme to help identify problems promptly, especially if expensive equipment is stored there.
  • Repair or replace missing, slipped or broken slates and damaged or rusty cladding. Ensure there are no gaps or cracks in the cladding or flashing which could allow water to enter the property.
  • Moss, which retains moisture, needs to be removed since it can cause slate to split into thin layers and can gradually erode all metals, particularly lead work. A seasonal brushing down is often all that is required to prevent excessive build up. 
  • Keep attics well ventilated to reduce the build up of snow and formation of ice dams. If portable heaters are being considered you should first seek approval from your insurance company and comply with any additional requirements that may be required. Ensure that fire risk assessments are updated to reflect the additional hazard. 

Smith concluded: “By ensuring that maintenance schedules are in place and employees are on the look-out for tell-tale signs, property owners can reduce the likelihood of damage to property and business interruption caused by heavy snow this winter.”

For further information on measures that can be taken to help prevention damage to property caused by snow, please see Aviva’s Hardfacts information:


Commercial insurance can be complex, which is why Aviva doesn’t offer it direct. Visit www.aviva.co.uk/yourbusiness to find your nearest independent broker.


For further information, please contact:
Patrick Chester at Staniforth on 0161 919 8011

Sally Leeman : Aviva Press Office : 01603 684225 : 07789 270677 : sally.leeman@aviva.co.uk                                                                   

Notes to editors:

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in 10 cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at www.aviva.com/cr.

Aviva’s global Street to School programme is working in partnership with Railway Children in the UK to get children living on the streets back into education and everyday life. Find out more at www.aviva.co.uk/street-to-school.

The Aviva media centre at www.aviva.com/media includes images, company and product information and a news release archive.

For broadcast-standard video, please visit www.aviva.com/media/video.

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009
** Source: ABI data released August 2010

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