Rain, Snow or Sleet, Watch Your Feet!
By Kathy Phillips
With the winter season at hand, parking garage owners and operators must pay particular attention to the increased exposure to slips, trips and falls in parking lots, on sidewalks and other outdoor spaces. It is imperative – particularly in parking areas where water tends to create puddles or sidewalks that can get slick – that safety measures be taken.
While some believe that this is a simple fact of doing business, proper attention can reduce the occurrence of these situations and have a significant impact in reducing employee and customer injuries. Following are some tasks that will help the parking garage owner/operator in reducing the frequency of these claims:
Rain, sleet, snow and ice greatly increase the slip, trip and fall hazard. Management must keep a close eye on weather patterns to ensure that proper equipment and materials are available to reduce standing water, de-ice areas and remove snow, especially in parking areas where the weather can determine the lighting needed or cleanup required. Simply placing signs to notify that the floors are wet can result in an admission of liability.
Customers and employees should be re-routed whenever possible to ensure their safety; of course, absorbent mats should be placed at entryways. Mats should be checked regularly and saturated ones should be changed out. Providing additional temporary cover to protect customers from the elements is a nice service gesture and can also help unwanted tracking into a facility or structure.
External walking surfaces should be included in regular inspections to ensure that hazards are corrected expeditiously, including efforts to:
• Fill and patch cracks and holes.
• Repair and eliminate raised areas due to tree roots, settling, cold weather (frost heaves) and ordinary wear-and-tear.
• Reduce surface water by directing roof drainage away from sidewalks and parking areas.
• Clear sidewalks/parking areas of snow/ice before employees and guests arrive.
• Center and secure parking stoppers.
• Paint or stain parking stoppers near entrances “safety yellow” to improve visibility.
Inadequate lighting also may lead to accidents involving falls in parking lots, trips over curbing, falls on stairs from a parking lot to a store, and trips and falls due to holes, cracks and uneven surfaces.
There are recommended standards to levels of lighting. However, one does not require a light meter to determine if areas are too dim or require additional lighting. It is a good idea to supplement preventive maintenance efforts by conducting lighting surveys and inspections in the evening. This can be done during security walks if your organization conducts them or as part of your regular safety inspection committee walks.
Footwear policies are often looked to as the only means of preventing slips, trips and falls. Additional difficulties are present due to the need for footwear to match dress code requirements. Where ever possible, employees should be required to have slip-resistant soles often associated with athletic shoes. In the event it is just not possible to accommodate the use of non-dress shoes, employees should be requested to wear shoes with slip-resistant soles to and from work. Slip covers also can be provided to employees who may be required to go into the elements infrequently.
On-going management of the above tasks can greatly improve the safety of the facilities you operate and manage without negatively impacting services.
Kathy Phillips, CIC, CPP, is First Vice President of Alliant Insurance Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from December, 2010