Prevent Wintertime Slips, Falls

By Roy Maurer Dec 27, 2012
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Injuries caused by slips, trips and falls are a major burden to employers, especially during the winter months. Wintertime snow and ice bring an increased risk of slips and falls due to slippery sidewalks, parking lots and work areas.

Employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits when an injury occurs in the course of employment. Generally, injuries sustained going to and coming from the workplace are not deemed to have occurred in the course of employment, but if your employee falls and is injured in your parking lot it’s likely the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits—regardless of who’s responsible for snow removal. The National Safety Council estimated that slips, trips and falls account for about 15 percent to 20 percent of all workers’ compensation costs.

The suggestions below, compiled from workplace comp insurer SFM, based in Bloomington, Minn., will help keep your employees safe from slips and falls this winter.

Parking Lots and Sidewalks

  • Consider illuminating walking paths.
  • Mark trouble spots such as snow banks and slippery curbs with police tape.
  • Remember to adequately salt walkways.
  • Be sure to remove re-melted snow and ice after the application of winter salt.

Entrances and Exits

  • Instead of trying to shoveland salt all of the entrances, consider closing selected ones for the winter.
  • Ask all of your employees to enter and exit from one or two doors. That will make it easier to ensure snow is removed, ice doesn’t build up and conditions are less hazardous.
  • Mop all entrances and exits regularly to prevent water accumulation.

Communicating with Employees

Talk to employees about things they can do to avoid slips and falls this winter. Tips include:

  • Avoid wearing high heels outside. Flat shoes with slip resistant soles or boots are best.
  • When walking across ice or snow, be sure to take short, flat steps.
  • Walk. Don’t run. Slowing down will decrease the chances of a slip and fall.
  • When entering a building, remember to clean your footwear thoroughly on the floor mats or carpet.
  • Use walkways that have been salted or shoveled.
  • Discourage taking shortcuts over snow piles and in areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible.
  • When entering a building, remove snow and water from footwear so as not to create wet, slippery conditions indoors.
  • Spread salt or sand when you see icy spots. You can help reduce the number of falls by taking action.

Be watchful for the following hazards:

  • Slippery surfaces indoors due to water, ice or snow from footwear.
  • Snowy and ice-covered sidewalks.
  • Black ice—a thin, nearly invisible coating of ice caused when temperatures rise above freezing and quickly drop below freezing.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.​

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