Question: We’ve seen an uptick in slip-and-fall injuries recently, particularly in icy conditions. What can we do to prevent these incidents?
Answer: Slips, trips, and falls continue to account for a large percentage of workplace injuries, so you’re wise to address the hazards before your employees suffer an injury. Outdoor incidents increase during the winter months due to icy conditions. This is particularly true for employees who are less experienced walking on icy surfaces, aren’t properly equipped, or are simply in a hurry. Employers must be prepared for ice and snow before it hits.
Make the walking surface safe: Your facility should be stocked with appropriate products to help melt ice and/or provide traction, along with adequate snow shovels. Ideas include de-icing solutions, salt, sand, sawdust, and more; check out these recommendations from WTTW in Chicago, American Home Shield, and This Old House. Designated personnel should ensure all outdoor parking lots, sidewalks, and other common walking surfaces are attended to the night before an icy build up. For instance, spreading a de-icing solution or salt on these surfaces can help prevent ice build-up before temperatures start dropping. A colored de-icing solution is best because it provides a visual reminder to employees that the surface has been treated and they should walk with caution.
Train employees: You should issue instructions to employees ahead of time or conduct a brief safety training, to ensure they understand what to do when conditions are icy. Remind them to slow down, take small steps, and walk flat-footed on icy surfaces. They should allow extra time to arrive at your facility and walk to their work stations. Employees should always wear footwear with solid, sturdy soles; rubber is preferable. Avoid shoes with heels, lifts, or smooth soles. Support and grip with stability is key. Examples include a low-top athletic or trail shoe or a sturdy hiking boot. Also, do your employees know they can buy simple traction devices that fit over the soles of their shoes? Personal traction devices from companies such as Yaktrax can help employees remain sure-footed while walking across icy terrain.
Deploy safety helpers: Consider asking employee volunteers and safety committee members to arrive early and address hazards to the extent possible. This might include clearing paths or setting out warning signs. Employees should log this time as work time. Ensure these employees are wearing coats, traction shoes, hats, and layered clothing to stay warm while assessing the parking lot or other outdoor areas.
Need help preparing for cold weather at your facility? Reach out to your Vigilant safety professional for recommendations to prevent slips, trips, and falls when the weather turns icy.