SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Preventing Winter Slips, Trips and Falls
Summer is over and fall and winter is starting to show
up in the United States. If you live in Arizona like I
do then, as you may know our best season is here.
For others that live back East or in the Northwest you will
soon be seeing the change in the weather. So in getting
ready for this change of seasons, I would like to write
about slips, trips and falls since these types of injuries
account for about 15% – 20% of all workers’ compensation
costs and cause approximately 300,000 injuries and
more than 1,500 deaths each year.
Cold weather brings with it a number of hazards: slips
and falls from wet floors, stairs and ice; frostbite and
hypothermia from exposure to extreme temperatures;
overexertion when removing snow; and injury from snowplows
and power shovels. Cold weather risks also include
carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented heating
systems, vehicles and generators; and accidents caused
by inattentive driving, bad weather and poor road conditions.
While all of these winter hazards can cause serious
injuries, preventing slips and falls is the focus of this article.
No. 1 Accident Cause
In any season, slips, trips and falls are the number one
cause of workplace injuries reported and matching national
trends. Even the safest businesses are not immune. To
help you prepare for the change in seasons, please follow
the safety information that is listed below:
Keep It Dry
Snow, water or ice can cause falls, so address them now
instead of waiting for an accident to happen. Be sure to clean
and mop floors continually, or place non-slip absorbent mats
at entrances. This is especially important in retail store locations,
building lobbies, and similar high traffic areas where
people drip snow, water and mud from their shoes.
Floor surface maintenance is also an important consideration.
Be certain that your staff uses proper cleaning, stripping
and finishing products on tile and vinyl floors; using the
wrong products (or using them improperly) increases the
risk of slipping hazards. Train staff to watch power cords of
cleaning and buffing machines to prevent tripping. Use “wet
floor” signs and barricades when appropriate.
Clear That Snow
Many areas of our country receive significant snowfall,
but the slightest amount of snow can cause problems.
Review your snow removal plans annually:
- Ensure that employees receive adequate training on
snow removal equipment.
- Do they know how to operate blowers, power shovels and
tractors? Can they clear jams and blockages safely? The law
prohibits anyone under 18 from using powered equipment.
- Perform recommended periodic equipment checks and
- Familiarize workers with your terrain and problem spots.
- If you use contractors, confirm that snow removal firms
are ready to provide service.
- Check that ice or snow-melting chemicals are appropriate
for the temperature and surfaces on which they will
be used. Gravel walks and parking lots have caused slips
and falls; one policyholder paved them after sustaining
a large winter claim. If possible, direct workers and customers
to avoid gravel walks and paths during winter.
Emphasize Attentive Work Habits
An important step in reducing winter slips and falls is
having your employees watch their step. Lack of attention
when walking is a major cause of many slip-and-fall
injuries. Instruct workers to focus on what’s underfoot,
especially checking for slippery patches and snow that
might conceal ice.
The transition from a carpeted to polished floor can also
be hazardous. Make these items part of your winter safety
- Just as in driving, avoid distractions where walking is
- Require workers to wear appropriate footwear for the
weather and working conditions, especially if they work
outside, or frequently go from indoors to outdoors.
Many employers requires staff to change from outdoor
shoes to indoor shoes for work indoors.
- Workers who carry items should follow safe lifting and
carrying procedures to maintain their balance. Never
twist or make abrupt turns when lifting, but especially
when the footing is slippery.
When I was with a large manufacturer, we found that by
coating our floors with a non-slip floor coating for the first 25
to 50 feet on the walking areas into the manufacturing areas,
reduced our slips, trips and falls tremendously. We also coated
the entrances into the facility where our industrial trucks
were operating. By coating these work areas, the industrial
truck operators were able to stop quicker in case of an emergency.
You and your workers can avoid winter slips and falls
by following basic precautions and using common sense.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.