Five actions your business can take to reduce slip and fall hazards this winter

I get it. Safety is top of mind. And in the winter, keeping your business clear of snow and ice is no easy task. So what do you reach for? I’m going to say salt or some sort of ice melting product. Along with the cost to purchase salt there are other costs you might not consider. My post “The hidden costs of salt and ice melter you might not know about” talks about just that.

Protecting the environment including me – your drinking water – is important but I’m guessing someone slipping and falling on your property is a more pressing concern.

What if I told you there are actions you can take to reduce icy areas? Reducing icy areas can mean less salt on the ground – which is a good thing for me – and allows you to better manage your risk from a slip and fall.

Video: Winter maintenance – preventing ice before it occurs (Region of Waterloo)

So what can you do?

Start with a complete winter maintenance plan. Being proactive instead of reactive prepares your team for whatever Mother Nature might throw at them.

Walk your property on a rainy day. Watch how the rain flows, pools or puddles on your property. This same water in the warmer months can turn to ice when the temperature drops. In other words, potential slip and fall hazards needing more salt to deal with the ice.

illustration of person with umbrella with the word winter underneath
Figure 1 – Rain in the warmer months can become an icy slip and fall hazard in the winter.

Here are my top five actions you can take to better manage icy areas and provide safer passage for your staff and visitors.

  1. Repair leaky eaves troughs and downspouts. Leaky eaves troughs and downspouts can drip water on to paved walking areas that can turn into black ice, hard to see but easy to slip on. While taking that walk on a rainy day remember to look up for drips and leaks that can freeze into ice on a walkway.
rain dripping from an eaves trough
Figure 2 – Drippy eaves troughs can create icy areas where your staff and visitors walk.

2. Redirect downspouts away from paved areas. Downspouts draining on to paved areas can create icy areas that are hard to manage. Is it possible to move those downspouts so the water soaks into a grassy or landscaped area instead? Can you add an extension that takes that water to exit at a porous surface?

rain from downspout draining on to parking lot
Figure 3 – Where does the water from your downspout go?

3. Close areas instead of salting. Closing areas not needed in the winter can reduce your risk from potential slip and fall hazards. As part of your winter preparations, identify areas you can close without impeding emergency exits, accessibility ramps or entrances. Areas to close may include outdoor patios, overflow parking, redundant walkways or stairs. During, the pandemic, there may be larger areas of your parking surface that can be closed and don’t need to be maintained.

3 sets of stairs with two sets closed off.
Figure 4 – Areas to close might include redundant stairs.

4. Stop snow from drifting on to paved areas. Landscaping or snow fences can help keep drifting snow off paved areas and reduce icy areas from forming due to wind. Consider wind direction and elevation changes when choosing locations.

hedge behind parking lot
Figure 5 – Landscapes and fencing can help stop snow from drifting on to your property.

5. Store your snow where it won’t melt across paved areas. Where will you put the snow after it’s plowed? Store snow on paved surfaces on the lowest area of the property near a catch basin to stop melted snow from refreezing across your parking lot.

snow pile melting across parking lot
Figure 6 – Where you store the snow can help reduce ice from forming across your parking lot.

Now you know my five actions you can take to deal with the ice that can lead to slips and falls. Ready to take that walk? Make sure to grab your umbrella and this winter maintenance worksheet and map template to help you document those trouble spots.

Is your business winter-ready? Walk your property on a rainy day to see how rain flows and puddles. When temps drop this same rain turns to ice. Managing stormwater can reduce slip and fall hazards. #iamgroundwaterblog

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