Welcome to S.A.F.E. (Slip and Fall Elimination)
Accident Fund’s winter-weather safety campaign. S.A.F.E. offers important information and tips on staying safe during the winter months, such as: Snow and ice removal, proper salting techniques, footwear for hazardous weather conditions, and more. We encourage you to access this information on a regular basis this winter so you stay S.A.F.E. no matter what the forecast has in store.
Winter Weather Preparedness
At Accident Fund, we know it’s critical to be prepared for winter weather threats, as well as develop an action plan to be ready when severe winter weather strikes. The safety of you and your employees may count on it.
- Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold. Add vehicle accidents with the potential for serious injury or fatalities, and other winter weather elements, and you have a significant threat.
- Hypothermia and frostbite can lead to loss of fingers and toes or cause permanent kidney, pancreas and liver injury or even death. You must prepare properly to avoid these extreme dangers.
- Winter storms are unpredictable and can last for several days. Most involve high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures.
- People can become trapped in their car if caught in a winter storm — an especially important point if your company employs drivers or has teammates who travel for work.
- The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks or even months.
- Extremely cold temperatures, heavy snow and flooding can cause hazardous conditions and hidden risks.
Stay safer this season
- Walk carefully on snowy or icy sidewalks.
- If you’re responsible for shoveling snow, be extremely careful, as it’s physically strenuous work. Take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion — heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.
- Avoid traveling by car, but if you must, keep the gas tank full for emergency use and to keep your fuel line from freezing. Let someone know your destination, the route you are taking, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
- If you do get stuck, stay with your car — don’t try to walk to safety. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour and keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes don’t back up in the car. Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen. As you sit, move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and stay warm. Keep one window cracked open to let in air.
- After the storm, avoid driving until conditions have improved — listen to local radio and television stations for updates.
With tools, such as our Winter Weather Preparedness Guidebook, you’ll be well-prepared for what to do when winter weather strikes. Accident Fund policyholders can log into our website for a variety of additional safety tools and tips.
Preventing Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip, trip and fall accidents are a leading cause of injury across many industry segments including health care, manufacturing, trucking and general office environments. Good housekeeping practices, routine facility inspections and preventative maintenance programs are all effective ways of preventing these injuries and lowering the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, especially during the winter months.
Facility, janitorial and maintenance staff play a key role in keeping parking lots, sidewalks and interior walking surfaces clean and well-maintained. Management should routinely meet with these employees to review current work practices and procedures. There should also be open discussions regarding potential slip and fall exposures in the workplace and how facility inspections, preventative maintenance programs and housekeeping practices can be fine tuned to focus on winter-related exposures.
Inspections and snow removal procedures should be in place in an effort to prevent fall injuries for employees and visitors.
- Parking lots, sidewalks and outdoor steps need to have any snow accumulation removed in a timely manner and have salt or other surface treatments applied to melt icy spots.
- Extreme winter environmental factors can be harsh on blacktop and concrete surfaces so ongoing inspections need to be performed to identify potholes and cracks that may have formed.
- Temporary barricades and safety cones should mark unsafe areas until appropriate repairs can be made.
- Preventative maintenance programs and safety inspection checklists should be used and should include areas where there has been a history of slip and fall incidents.
- Lighting systems covering parking lots and sidewalks should be checked to verify they are working properly and identify any electrical ballast systems that need repair. Deficient lighting makes it more difficult for employees to see patches of snow and ice.
- Entrance steps and handrails need to be continuously inspected for damage.
- Slabs of sidewalk concrete can be lifted by trapped water freezing that creates a lip between the sections. These sections may need to be ground down with specialized machinery to create a smooth transition area.
- Drain pipes, grate covers and catch basins may become clogged with debris or ice dams, causing water from melting snow and ice to back up onto walking surfaces and refreeze.
Interior walking surfaces, such as entrances, foyers, reception areas, hallways, and stairwells, are all areas where serious slip and fall injuries have occurred, and special attention should be paid to housekeeping in these areas.
- The occurrence of these injuries mainly takes place during the winter when employees and visitors track snow, ice and water throughout hallways, stairwells and other interior areas.
- These surfaces can quickly accumulate snow, water and excess salting materials, which need to be cleaned often.
- Heavy foot traffic causes entrance mats to roll up and become a major trip hazard.
- Floor mats also become saturated with snow and water and may require replacement during the day. Extra mats should be kept on hand and changed out as needed.
Tools to Put into Place
Written schedules, housekeeping checklists, maintenance procedures and other standard forms are all effective ways to monitor hazardous areas. Computer software applications are available for large facilities or customized checklists can be created easily by your own staff. Use your safety teams, wellness committees and facility personnel to develop your own materials to identify the specific areas to place on a housekeeping checklist.
Our Good Housekeeping Guidebook will help keep your workplace safe by providing important information on best housekeeping practices. Accident Fund policyholders can log into our website to access this guidebook as well as a variety of additional safety tools and tips.
Stay S.A.F.E. this Winter – Snow and Ice Removal
At Accident Fund, we focus on the safety of your employees. Part of that focus is educating you on hazards that arise in the workplace throughout the year.
In many areas of the country, we see large amounts of snowfall and ice during the winter months. In fact, not only does snow fall in many locations from November through March, it can be preceded, mixed with or followed by rain, freezing rain or sleet.
Because of this, it’s critical to have a strong snow and ice removal program in place to keep employees safer this winter and beyond. While the weather conditions that increase the slipperiness of outdoor surfaces can’t be controlled, you can take meaningful action to reduce slips and falls through careful attention to and maintenance of sidewalks, curbs and parking lots.
Sidewalks and parking lots are especially vulnerable to change in weather conditions. Some important things to remember include:
- You should ensure your sidewalks and parking lots have been constructed to be slip resistant, even when wet, and have ample drainage to prevent rainwater and ice accumulation.
- Whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to take care of it for you, ensuring proper snow removal will greatly decrease the chances of falls occurring. A strong rule of thumb, which could be altered based on the amount of snowfall, is that snow removal should be performed every four hours for as long as snow falls, and once after snow stops.
- Sufficient lighting should be in place so employees and guests can clearly see where they’re going at all times.
- Sidewalks should remain clear and unobstructed at all times.
- Sidewalks and parking lots should be free of holes, drop-offs, cracks and all other depressions and openings. If any of these conditions occur, repairs need to be made immediately.
- When sidewalks and parking lots change levels, such as with the use of a ramp, lighting and high-contrast signage and paint should be used to indicate the change in level.
- Sidewalks and parking lots should be de-iced with salt or ice-melter when necessary to control buildup. Be extra mindful of areas where the sun will melt snow and ice during the day and re-freeze at night.
These are just a few highlights of what goes into a sound plan. We know that developing a program like this might seem like a daunting task, but Accident Fund is here to help. With tools like our Snow and Ice Removal Program Guidebook, you’ll be able to create a program for your organization that will help keep your employees safer this winter.
Ice Melting Supplies – A Must for Every Company
Providing safe walking surfaces for your employees is a must — especially when winter weather hits. By using ice melter on sidewalks, parking lots and other frequently traveled areas, you will be protecting your employees from slip and fall accidents when at work, even on the nastiest days winter has in store.
Since the first winter freeze often catches people off-guard, be sure you always have ice melter on-hand. You should also always stock more than you expect you’ll need, and store it in an easily accessible area so you can access it whenever the need arises. Remember, ice-melting products are far cheaper than insurance claims and other costs associated with winter weather slips and falls.
When choosing an ice-melting product for your company, keep in mind that it needs to be safe for people and animals that may come into contact with it. Also, be sure to use quality products that won’t damage concrete or landscaping.
While you can control the de-icing practices at your company, remember that employees who travel to off-site locations are vulnerable to slips and falls on ice that might be present in remote locations. Therefore, keep your employees informed of the necessary precautions when travelling off-site.
Below are some common mistakes that leading ice melt manufacturers have shared:
- Not using it? Falls are a huge liability for business owners. Many regulatory bodies have legislation that requires a business to take some action to prevent slips and falls. By doing nothing, business owners open themselves up to legal action.
- Using too much? According to manufacturers, less is usually more when it comes to ice melt. Overusing the product can lead to it being unnecessarily tracked into the facility, and can burn the vegetation near where the product is used.
- Applying it improperly? Following directions for ice melt is important for determining quantity and to ensure the proper personal protective equipment is being used during application.
- Using the wrong kind? How quickly de-icers work, and at what temperature, varies depending on the materials the product is made from. It’s important to use ice melters that melt to the temperatures that generally occur in your region.
- Not cleaning it up? Tracked-in ice melt is unattractive and can damage floors and other surfaces. The best way to prevent ice melt from being tracked into the building is by using track mats both inside and outside your entrances, and to clean them up with a mop or vacuum throughout the day.
With tools, such as our Salting for Winter Safety Guidebook, you’ll have everything you need to know about keeping your walkways free of ice and snow — and safe for your employees! Accident Fund policyholders can log into our website for a variety of additional safety tools and tips.
Wearing Proper Footwear Can Prevent Slips and Falls
Helping employees choose the right winter footwear is an important part of preventing slip and fall accidents on the job. Important factors to keep in mind when it comes to footwear include comfort, thermal protection, slip resistance, usability and cost. Because of the unpredictable and often treacherous conditions that can arise from winter weather, footwear should provide as much stability as possible to avoid slips and falls.
Though the prevention of slips and falls is of particular importance for workers who do jobs outside, it’s critical to remember that slips and falls can take place anywhere and at any time, including in parking lots as employees travel to and from buildings. According to OSHA, slips, trips and falls constitute the majority of workplace accidents. They cause many types of debilitating injuries and time away from work. They’re also responsible for 15% of all accidental deaths — in fact, they’re second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.
Major contributing factors causing weather-related slips and falls include:
- Inadequate removal of snow and salt
- Walking or running too fast for the conditions
- Improper footwear for winter walking conditions
Choosing the Right Shoe
Wearing the right shoe will go a long way in preventing a potential slip and fall.
- The outsole of the shoe is the area that’s in contact with the walking surface. If the sole’s properties and walking surface have a high enough coefficient of friction, good traction will be achieved between the two.
- Flat leather or plastic-soled shoes offer minimal slip resistance between the shoe and the walking surface; therefore, both would be poor choices in snow or ice.
- Soles carry both oily and slip-resistant properties, which are both important, especially if you encounter walking surfaces that may contain oils, greases or liquids.
- Some soles have flat surfaces, while others offer a tread design that can improve the traction between the walking surface and the sole, especially if the surface may be slippery.
- The depth and spread of the treads are important since too closely-patterned treads or treads with minimal depth will not allow liquids to be dispersed from the tread pattern and may create a potential hydroplaning effect between the sole and the walking surface.
- It’s important to periodically inspect shoe tread for wear and replace shoes when significant wear is noted.
When walking over ice and snow remember to:
- Choose the right type of footwear for winter walking conditions
- Look for slip hazards and scan the path of travel.
- Maintain a focus on the slip and fall exposures when walking.
- Take shorter, slower steps, keeping the feet shoulder-width apart.
By utilizing Accident Fund’s WorkSafe tools, such as our S.A.F.E.: Footwear Guidebook, you’ll be well prepared for walking safely in winter weather. Accident Fund policyholders can log into our website for the full guide as well as a variety of additional safety tools and tips.
Don’t Be a Clown
Pass the Salt
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