This winter has been one for the record books. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, life came to an abrupt and chilly standstill for weeks as we tried to dig out of the snow dumped by consecutive storms. Fresh snow, packed snow, freezing rain, snow covered ice, frozen slush and snow stuck to our footwear may all lead to devastating slip-and-fall accidents, which may result in serious or even fatal injuries. Property owners and managers should take special care during this time with good housekeeping practices, routine facility inspections and preventive maintenance programs that can go a long way in preventing these slip-and-fall accidents.
Outdoor Safety in the Winter
Janitorial and maintenance staff play a critical role when it comes to keeping parking lots, sidewalks and interior walking surfaces clean and well-maintained. Managers would be well advised to meet with these employees regularly to go through current cleaning schedules and procedures. They should particularly review slip-and-fall hazards in the premises and how their practices can be fine-tuned to prevent these accidents.
Inspections and snow removal procedures should be in place to prevent fall injuries for employees, tenants, visitors or guests. Snow must be removed in a timely manner from parking lots, sidewalks and outdoor steps. Salt and other surface treatments should be used to melt icy spots. If you have blacktop and concrete surfaces, winter weather can wreak havoc on those surfaces, which must be specially inspected to identify potholes and cracks.
When you spot hazardous areas, those locations should be marked with cones or barricades to caution people who may be passing by. In properties where there has been a history of slip-and-fall accidents, it is important for maintenance staff to have inspection checklists. Lighting systems in parking areas should be checked to ensure that they are working properly. Deficient lighting not only puts pedestrians in danger, but also prevent workers from clearing out snow and ice quickly.
It is important not to ignore interior walking surfaces such as foyers, entryways, reception areas, hallways and stairways where slip-and-fall accidents can occur. In the winter, such accidents can occur when employees or visitors track snow, ice and water inside. Heavy foot traffic may cause mats to roll up and become a major tripping hazard.
What Can You Do?
Pedestrians should also exercise safety to prevent these types of serious fall accidents and injuries.
- Be aware of the surface you are walking on and take small steps. Focus on what you’re doing. Avoid talking on the cell phone or texting when you are walking.
- Choose your path carefully and avoid icy conditions when you can.
- Do not make sudden movements when stepping on a hard surface. Keep your eyes on your feet in such situations.
- Get the snow off from the bottom of your shoes before you enter a building. Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear. You will get better traction with rubber soles that have deep grips. Strap-on non-slip shoe treads may be a worthwhile investment.
- Get an early start and take your time to get to your destination. Trying to hurry up may result in a slip-and-fall accident.
- Be careful when getting out of your vehicle.
- Don’t take shortcuts. Use sidewalks and the cleared paths in parking lots.