Preventing Winter Slips & Falls
Winter is just around the corner. Now is a good time to proactively manage your winter slips-and-fall risks by planning ahead, identifying the risks and engineering controls.
Simple slip-and-fall injuries due to snow and ice can have significant impact on an injured employee or customer as well as your bottom line. Preventing these mishaps should be a priority.
Falls are a leading cause of injury
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, keeps yearly statistics on injuries. The most recent data indicates that unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury.
In large facilities, it’s a particular concern, especially if pedestrian traffic tends to be frequent or rushed. For example, people rarely walk leisurely into a supermarket or a busy office building. Cold conditions tend to make people move even faster. And naturally, the busier your organization, the more often these injuries are likely to occur as people try to conduct their business quickly.
CDC statistics indicate that the medical cost for winter slips-and-fall injuries top out at $34 billion every year, with hospital costs amounting to two thirds of the total. Adding in the costs for medication, physical therapy, and durable medical equipment, and it’s easy to see why just one slip-and-fall injury can be a significant financial burden on the injured person as well as the employer.
An employer’s liability or workers’ compensation insurance will cover a good portion of the costs, but the claim for a single incident may be much higher than you’d expect. A Snow and Ice Management Association study indicates that the average claim for a snow- or ice-related slip-and-fall injury is $33,000. A worker’s compensation claim for the same injury averages $48,000.
In addition to the costs of claims, employers need to consider the economic impact caused by business disruption and the cost of hiring replacement workers along with decreased employee morale and the negative effects on an organization’s safety culture.
How to prevent slips and falls
Start by generating awareness among your employees of the risks that come with inclement weather. Encourage your employees to be proactive in staying on their feet this winter season and avoiding slipping and falling. Point out the obvious. Tell employees to:
- Wear slip-resistant shoes
- Slow your pace. Walk. Do not run.
- Take shorter more deliberate steps
- Watch where you’re going. Pay attention to hazards and warnings such as “wet floor” signs, curbs and potholes
- Be aware of slippery floors due to snow and slush being tracked into the building
- Don’t carry more than you can handle. Don’t impair your line of sight. Be sure you can see over large or unwieldy loads
- Avoid distractions when walking (like cell phones)
Be proactive. Look at the weather and anticipate snow and ice. Send out a warning to all employees on upcoming inclement weather, and have snow removal plan in place beforehand.
Institute a Snow Removal Program
A snow removal program should identify the steps required to ensure that all of your outdoor entrances, stairways, sidewalks and parking lots are maintained and kept clear of ice and snow. A written program will help outline responsibilities for clearing snow, salting and sanding and emergency response procedures.
Having a robust Snow and Ice Removal Log in place as part of your program will help mitigate the risk of winter slips and falls. A Snow and Ice Removal Log will keep employees accountable and prepared when it snows regardless of the amount of snow and timing. Shoveling, sanding, salting, chipping at ice, and snow removal are proactive approaches that mitigate the risk to slips and falls.
Having a Snow & Ice Removal Log serves as a record of when snow removal activities were done. The log will record location, date, time, condition and the action taken to reverse the conditions present. It will also document who performed the tasks to eliminate the risks. Keeping the log will help mitigate any potential claims. Doing so also serves as a good defense for the employer should there be any litigation. Documentation is key.
For specific questions about preparing your workplace for winter weather or for using MMA’s Snow and Ice Removal Log, contact your local Marsh & McLennan representative.