How To Avoid A Spike In Slip And Fall Claims During Harsh Winters

Ice and snow-related slip and fall workers’ comp claims nearly doubled and represented one-third of claims involving time away from work last year in the Midwest area, which had a particularly harsh winter. In five Midwest states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Illinois winter-related slips and falls claims averaged 29% of all workers’ comp claims, according to Michigan-based Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America and New Berlin, Wisconsin-based United Heartland Inc.

Slips and falls can result in serious injuries such as fractures, dislocations, head injuries and so on, and are among the most expensive to resolve. While these accidents may not be completely avoidable, here are seven things employers can do to minimize the risk:

  1. Communicate with employees about the hazards of ice, snow and slippery weather. The Accident Fund suggests advising employees to:
    • Walk slowly and deliberately
    • Wear boots or slip-resistant footwear
    • Be prepared for black ice formation after melting occurs
    • Exercise caution when getting in and out of vehicles
    • Watch for slippery floors when entering buildings
    • Keep hands empty and arms free to move for stabilization – use backpacks if possible
  2. Solicit employee feedback to find out where the problem areas are and fix them.
  3. Ensure that parking lots are well maintained and well lit. Review the routes from designated parking areas to determine if there are weather-related hazards that can be mitigated.
  4. Give priority to employee parking areas when plowing and salting. Be sure that responsibilities, including timing and frequency, for snow removal, are clearly defined. Even if the company contracts with another company for the removal of snow and ice, have salt or ice-melting chemicals, shovels, and/or other snow removing equipment on hand in the event of an emergency.
  5. Make it easy for employees to don, doff and store winter apparel (particularly winter footwear).
  6. Inspect entryways, hallways, and steps that can become hazards when it is rainy or snowing. Keep floor cleaning equipment on hand to clean up liquid spills, condensation, and material spills to help prevent slips and falls.
  7. Investigate and know exactly where the incident occurred and determine who exercises control over the area. Subrogation or the “coming and going” rule may come into play regarding compensability.