Winter is right around the corner, and with the good tidings of the holidays comes the shift in weather that every attorney dreads. Slip and fall accidents are one of the top causes for injury on commercial and residential property. The changing weather increases these risks with ice and snow. Practicing great housekeeping and maintenance during this time is crucial to prevent injuries. This shift in weather does not change your liability, and now is the time to start prepping for the upcoming months.
Start With the Outside and Work Your Way In
While the weather can impact both the inside and outside of a home or commercial building, slips are most likely to happen outdoors. Practicing great outdoor maintenance can also help to keep the inside free of some hazards. Snow removal procedures should be prepared in advance so that they can be executed as quickly as possible. Remember that ice can gather on a number of surfaces including:
Parking lots and driveways that have a blacktop are at an increased risk because the ice tends to blend in with the dark colors. Inspecting the smooth space for cracks and potholes well in advance can help to keep ice spots minimal, but a good removal plan is also important. If performing the maintenance yourself, have a bag of salt handy to take care of the ice right away. Safety cones and signs should also be used when extreme weather has made it difficult for people to walk on your blacktop.
Many other areas should also be inspected for damage prior to the bad weather. Handrails in particular should be looked at for damage, as ice can add weight to the thin structures. These important rails help people to balance as they enter and leave a building; so keeping them in good repair year round is a must.
One other tip for prepping an outdoor area is to check the lighting. Proper lighting built with a strong structure can help to brighten the area, making it easier to see potential hazards in the lot or driveway. If you know in advance that a particular area is subject to ice, reinforce the lighting in that area and make sure that it is well-marked.
Create an Ice-Free Interior
No matter what the layout of the building is, floor maintenance is important to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Ice and snow will be tracked into entrance ways and reception areas regardless of how clean your outdoor area is. This will always melt, creating a water hazard. Housekeeping should clean the water as soon as possible, keeping in mind that areas with heavy foot traffic will need to be cleaned more frequently.
Preparing an interior for the season in advance is much easier than preparing an exterior. Most of the seasonal slip risks come from the outside. Placing extra floor mats near entrances is suggested to encourage the wiping of feet. Mats also help to prevent floor damage, as water can often get in between the cracks of the floor.
For commercial buildings, it is important to continue to mark potential hazards with a noticeable sign. Wet floor signs are essential to warn people that snow and ice is being tracked in.
After the First Snow
Even with preventative measures in place, it is still possible to develop problem areas. After the snow, you will need to get in the habit of checking walking surfaces for potential hazards around your building. This will help you identify new threats and allow you to identify areas that should be repaired or salted more often.
When inspecting the lot, shuffle around rather than walk. Point your feet out and take very slow, small steps. Look carefully for black ice, uneven surfaces and unsalted areas. Remember that ice can easily hide under the snow. Once you have located the trouble areas, fix them and mark them at the first possible opportunity.
Remind your employees to wear shoes that provide traction. Slip resistant shoes or boots are incredibly important during the winter months. You should also review the proper way to fall, which is avoiding landing on the knees or wrists as much as possible. If one can, they should fall to the side, as limbs are very frail.
You, your family, and your workforce deserve to stay safe this winter. A little bit of preventative work can help reduce the risk that someone will slip and fall on your property.
Avoid a Negligence Case in Winter
If a customer slips and falls in a store or parking lot, they may have a legal case. In most cases, it is situation-based. Often times, if the store did everything they could to prevent the slip, they can avoid some legal claims. Most lawsuits form out of negligence.
If a commercial building is aware of a situation and does nothing to prevent it, this is a case of negligence. If a floor is wet for a long period of time and no sign is placed, this could constitute as negligence if someone falls. This is because a simple preventative action, in this case the placing of a wet floor sign, would have made the customer more aware of the hazard. They could have potentially avoided the spill and may not have fallen.