Oh, the weather outside is frightful – winter weather slips and falls

By Rich Gaul, Safety Technical Advisor

Winter is upon us in Ohio, and with it comes icy conditions. Slips and falls are some of the most frequent types of injuries, especially during the winter months. Even walking to and from parking lots or between buildings at work during the winter requires special attention to avoid slipping and falling. Some of the most common areas in the workplace where slips and falls occur include:

  • Parking lots
  • Walkways
  • Steps
  • Lobby areas
  • Just inside doorways

Having a plan and following some basic guidelines will help minimize the risk of slips and falls. Here are some tips and techniques to reduce your chances of slipping and injuring yourself, followed by some tips and techniques employers can use to reduce hazards.

Prevention measures for employees

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles or equip your footwear with traction cleats. Carry your normal footwear with you or keep a pair at work.
  • Walk like a penguin/duck. Spread your feet out slightly to increase your center of gravity, take small steps, go slow, and look where you’re going.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets and free of items when walking (like a penguin). The temptation to keep your hands warm by using your pockets is understandable, but you’ll decrease your center of gravity and balance.
  • Be mindful of environmental conditions. Before you first step out of your car, visually assess the conditions. Hold onto the car door frame, carefully stand up, and ensure you have good stable footing before starting to walk.
  • Where available, hold onto handrails but be cautious not to grab a metal railing with your bare hand.
  • Although a parking lot or walkway may appear clear, there may be a thin coating of ice.
  • Walk in designated walkways that have been cleared as much as possible.
  • One of the most common causes of slips/trips/falls is transitioning from the outside elements to inside hard-surfaced flooring. Be extra cautious when you first step from outside to inside; assess the floor conditions. Try to stay on a dry floor mat until you clean your footwear of snow, slush, and water.
  • Be mindful of the time of day. Snow or ice may melt during the daylight but may freeze again after sunset.
  • Report unsafe conditions; don’t just walk by the hazard. If possible, correct the hazard yourself. 

Prevention measures for employers

If you haven’t already done so:

  • First, have a PLAN. Before the first freeze, you need to have a plan for when the weather turns bad. 
  • Determine who will oversee snow and ice removal. If you contract with an outside company, have the contract in place before it gets cold. If you use internal personnel, have the roles and responsibilities clearly defined and documented. Remember to have a back-up plan in place.
  • Have materials handy for dealing with sudden snow and ice, such as shovels and de-icers, including salt and salt spreaders.
  • Maintain your walkways and stairs. It’s best to shovel snow off before it gets trampled and packed down. Throw snow far enough away from your walkways, so when it melts, it doesn’t drain back onto your walkways and freeze into ice sheets.
  • If your walkways and stairs have ice on them, try sprinkling with rock salt.  Once the ice starts to melt, brush or shovel the remaining ice away.  
  • Keep clean and dry floor mats just inside all exterior doors or in other areas where wet conditions are common.
  • Train your employees. Consider training your employees how to walk like a penguin/duck on snow and ice. It may sound silly, but sometimes that’s what people will remember.
  • Have a brief winter safety meeting or send out notices prior to the start of winter.

Our newest video in our Micro Training Safety Series also discusses how to prevent injuries walking on snow and ice.

Exposure to cold, snow and ice is inevitable in Ohio. However, slips and falls are preventable if you use and share the information provided in this blog. Put your plan into place now so you can prevent these types of injuries in your workplace. 

BWC can help If you have questions about how to prevent injuries in your workplace, BWC is here to help. Reach out to one of our BWC safety consultants online for assistance or call 1-800-644-6292. Don’t forget take advantage of our other safety services as well. DSH offers a wide range of services for all industries at no additional cost to employers including safety consultationssafety education and training, and the BWC safety and video library.

One thought on “Oh, the weather outside is frightful – winter weather slips and falls

  1. Pingback: January 2022 Newsletter | Portage County Safety Council

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