Winter Safety - Preventing Slips and Falls

This winter has been brutally cold with a constant threat of snow and ice almost every other day it feels like. This time of year it is no surprise that the insurance world sees a sever spike in claims revolving around the slip and fall on ice by both employees and customers visiting your location.

Practicing great housekeeping and maintenance during this time is crucial to prevent injuries. This shift in weather does not change your liability; today's blog is to help address how you can better maintain your commercial (or residential) property to avoid negligence and a potential lawsuit.

Outdoor Maintenance Takes Top Priority

Slips are most likely to happen outdoors. Also well maintained parking lots, sidewalks and entries can 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 and continuously monitored.

Blacktop parking lots are especially susceptible to slips because the ice tends to blend in with the darker colors. Cracks and potholes should be inspected as they tend to lead to places water collects and higher concentration of ice. In addition to snow removal, your procedures should include placing salt right away.

One area that often goes overlooked is the inspection of hand rails before the winter season. Handrails should be looked at for damage, as ice and snow can add weight to the railings. This is important as the railing provides balance and support to people visiting your commercial building. Keeping them in good repair and clear of ice is good practice.

Another tip for maintaining a safe outdoor area is to check the lighting. With shorter days in the winter months often times employees can be coming and going in the dark. Appropriate lighting can help, making it easier to see slippery conditions and other potential hazards in your parking lot. Lastly, if you know that a particular area that historically accumulates ice, reinforce the lighting in that area along with adding additional signage alerting visitors.

Moving Safety Inside

As a building owner your responsibility doesn't stop with just proper outdoor maintenance.

Once in the building floor maintenance is important to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Even with the best outdoor clearing procedures it is next to impossible in Wisconsin to not have ice and snow tracked into and throughout your building. Of course once inside the ice and snow will always melt, creating the new problem of a water hazard. Your winter maintenance team procedure should also include recognizing the most common areas effected and should clean and monitor them more frequently.

The good news for building owners is preparing an interior for the winter season is much easier than preparing the outside exposures. Extra floor mats near all entrances helps to encourage the wiping of feet. Having your floor mats checked and cleaned is highly suggested on a regular basis. In addition to helping reduce the snow and ice coming into your building floor mats also help to prevent floor damage, as water can often get in between the cracks of the floor.

Protect Yourself From Legal Action

When a customer or vendor slips and falls in commercial building or parking lot, they may have a legal case. Almost all lawsuits form out of negligence. If the building owner did everything they could to prevent the slip, they can avoid some liability. Your insurance policy would have a duty to defend in either case or they could offer a med-pay claim.

Most liability policies offer med-pay of either $5,000 or $10,000 for injured customers while not excepting negligence but wanting to help a good patron of their business.

Hopefully this information was helpful and can assist you in establishing best practice safety standards for your commercial building.

Be safe!

Tony Matera, CIC

Commercial Insurance Advisor

Port Washington - Corporate Headquarters