Protect Your Business from Winter Slips & Falls

In part three of this four-week Winter Defense Series, I provide suggestions to protect your business from the leading cause of loss — slips and falls. If you missed the other ways you can keep yourself and your business safe this winter, check out Dress to Protect with clothing and layering suggestions, as well as Recognizing Dangerous Symptoms, which identifies warning signs and first aid for frostbite and hypothermia.

Slips and falls can happen anytime and anywhere, but the likelihood increases in winter due to snow and ice build-up outdoors and slush and water being tracked into buildings. A Society Insurance study of restaurant and tavern losses found slips and falls were the leading source of customer injury. A national study found slips and falls were the second-leading cause of employee injury, increasing 41 percent since 1998!

To prevent slips and falls, first isolate the problem. What does your past loss history tell you? Have you had any employee or guest injuries due to icy sidewalks or wet floors?

Don’t just consider injuries. Also consider near misses — has anyone commented about a slippery section of sidewalk or parking lot? Maybe an area where ice builds up later in the day after a freeze thaw cycle? Those comments are near misses, usually made because someone almost slipped and fell.

Take the time to inspect your facility and look for problem areas. Common outdoor concerns include areas where gutter discharge can freeze on walkways, uneven sections of sidewalk, and potholes in the parking lot.

To prevent indoor slip/falls, you can:

  • Use walk-off mats at entrances.
  • Increase the walk-off mat length in winter to at least 10 to 12 strides.
  • Use a mat service to regularly change the mats.
  • Dry mats yourself and go over them with an extractor to remove excess water.
  • Replace mats with curled up edges before someone stumbles.
  • Have a mop readily available to clean up spills.
  • Use wet floor signs, but don’t leave wet floor signs out all the time or they will eventually be ignored!
  • Ask staff to warn guests of any step up or down as they are seated.

To aid in your facility slip and fall inspection, download this Managers Slip/Fall Prevention Checklist from Society’s Risk Control team.

Winter slips and falls can also be reduced by having a defined plan to deal with snow and ice. As you develop your plan, consider the following:

  • Will you do your own snow removal or will you use a contractor?
  • If you use a contractor, make sure they provide a certificate of insurance for liability, workers compensation and auto.
  • What time will the plowing, shoveling or salting be done? Your goal should be to have it done before you open or before employees are scheduled to arrive.
  • Coming to work early can be a great idea, but not on snow days. When overnight snow is predicted, ask employees to not come in early. This will give you or the contractor adequate time to fully clean the parking lot and ensure a safe path into the building for employees.
  • If employees must arrive early, designate a specific employee parking area and entrance where the snow will be removed early so they are less likely to slip coming in.
  • Assign someone the responsibility to periodically check the sidewalks and parking lots throughout the day to look for new snow or ice build-up that needs to be dealt with.
  • If you do your own snow removal, is your staff properly equipped? Ensure they dress warm and use multiple layers of clothing.
  • Consider the use of ice cleats for staff that are the first to arrive to begin the snow removal process. They are a great way to prevent slipping on ice hidden under a new snowfall.

Join me next week, when I provide suggestions for on-the-road winter safety.

-Tim Hoffmann


Tim has broad experience working with manufacturers, school districts, distributors, service industries, municipalities and the hospitality industry. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), holds the Associate Loss Control Management (ALCM) designation, and is a Professional Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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