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November 23, 2020

Tips for permanent winter slip prevention

Sean Antolik

Remember that frigid winter day when you stepped outside and the cold air took your breath away? It literally hurt the skin on your face. All you wanted was to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. As you stepped forward, you gasped as your feet slipped out from beneath you, and the pain of impact rattled your bones.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that cold for some of you, but if you live in regions where temperatures drop below freezing I’m sure the ending of that story sounds familiar. As we enter another season of black ice and hard packed snow, we should take some time to consider methods to eliminate your winter slips and trip areas.

#1 Walk the Site – Day and Night

In order to identify slip spots you should grab a note pad, or print a site map, and take some time to walk the site with someone responsible for snow and ice removal. If possible, do this walk after a rain event or melting temperatures, keeping an eye out for puddles, flowing water in foot traffic areas, and slow to dry areas. Also, evaluate stairs, steps, and landing zones looking for handrails and water accumulation. Mark these locations on your map as your slip spots. While you are out there, identify uneven walkways such as cracked concrete or heaved pavers. Mark these as your trip hazards.

The last piece to this inspection should include a walk in the dark. You will want to evaluate your outdoor lighting and identify areas that have limited visibility. Parking lots and sidewalks with poor lighting are common causes for slips and trips.

#2 Establish Temporary Prevention

Now that you have identified your target areas, you and the person responsible for grounds maintenance should work towards putting together some temporary solutions to prevent the slips and trips while you work towards permanent solutions. Rerouting foot traffic and placing cautions signs at trip areas can help. For iced over areas you could task an employee with inspecting and treating the identified slip areas with grit or salt after an ice event. Whatever you choose to do at this point remember that this is only temporary, the hazard has not been eliminated yet.

#3 Implement Permanent Solutions

Our goal is always to eliminate the hazard if possible. With that in mind, this would be a great time to pull together a brainstorming session with your grounds maintenance crew to get their expert opinion about the underlying causes for your slip and fall areas. They may already know about these spots and have great solutions in mind. During this brainstorming session have someone with a pen and paper ready to build out the “fix-it” list focusing on actionable items with the goal of fitting them into budget as soon as feasible.

#4 Plan Ahead for Future Snow and Ice Events

If you don’t have a snow and ice management plan yet than it would be worth your time to add the development of this plan to your “fix-it” list. During the development process, ensure that your snow and ice plan contains service level expectations. Establishing this expectation will give your grounds maintenance crew a defined starting point for the call-in and salt application process.

It is also important that your snow and ice management plan contains a snow removal priority map. This can be built around your emergency action plan (EAP) and fire protection plan (FPP). You’ll want to prioritize specific roadways, parking lots, sidewalks, entrances, and service areas on your property in relation to your EAP and FPP.

Looking for more help
For assistance contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency representative. We have safety professionals available to help with inspections, training and more.