Winter is a busy time of year for all. Injuries from slips and falls peak during winter months, putting your employees out of commission right when you need them most. If you have retail locations, slippery conditions from winter weather can put your customers at risk too.
Take action to prevent slips when winter arrives.
Become a Hazard Detective
Start by surveying your property, inside and out, focusing on areas where people walk, such as sidewalks, parking lots and building entrances. Look for things that might cause slips or trips:
- Changes in elevation - Heaved sidewalk sections, tree roots and potholes can create elevated edges in the walking surface that are likely to cause a trip. Just a quarter of an inch is enough to catch a pedestrian's foot.
- Water collection points - Any water you currently see could become ice once the temperature drops. Puddles and potholes are common culprits, but also look for areas where downspouts or gutters empty onto walkways.
- Entrances without mats - Precipitation migrates indoors on shoes, creating slippery floors and extra housekeeping work. Entrances should have mats on the inside and outside of doors to catch moisture as people walk in.
Need some help with your inspection? Try EMC's free Walkway Check app, which guides you through a walkway assessment and helps you package findings into a report that can easily be shared with your maintenance team or a contractor.
Start Fixing Problems Now
Once you've identified your issues, you can start making fixes before winter weather arrives.
- Changes in elevation can be fixed with concrete leveling techniques such as mudjacking, or by grinding down the edges of sidewalk sections. Elevated edges that can't be fixed now should be marked with high-contrast paint and/or cones.
- Depressions that fill with water can be filled permanently with concrete, or temporarily with gravel or paver base. Downspouts that discharge onto walkways can be rerouted underneath the walking surface.
- Have a solid mat strategy to protect indoor walkways from outdoor weather. Be prepared to swap out saturated mats with dry ones as needed.
Plan Your Piles
If you get a reasonable amount of snowfall, you'll need to find a place to pile it after plowing and shoveling. Accumulated snow will melt and refreeze, forming a very slippery sheet of ice, so choose a snow collection area where water runoff won't end up covering walkways.
If you contract your snow removal, now is a great time to review your agreement and walk the site to pinpoint problem areas, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Decide on Deicers
Ice melt is ever-present during winter but choosing the wrong kind or applying too much can have unintended consequences like concrete damage or a slippery film on interior floors.
- Choose the right ice melt product and consider the best way to apply.
- Beware of black ice in late winter and early spring. Monitor areas where snow and ice melt and check for refreeze in the morning. Icy areas should be treated and marked because black ice is exceptionally slippery and very hard to see.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Footwear makes a big difference for employees working outside or in slippery areas.
- For slippery indoor areas, encourage employees to choose slip-resistant footwear with a multidirectional tread pattern to minimize hydroplaning and a softer rubber sole to help grip hard surface floors.
- Employees working outdoors in snow and ice should wear rubber-soled footwear with wide, deep treads or slip-resistant soles. Consider removable ice cleats for additional slip resistance (these should be removed upon entering a building).