It’s easy to blame a slip and fall on rain, snow or ice. But that won’t take away the employee’s pain, lost work time or workers’ compensation costs associated with the incident.
We’ve already talked about the importance of having a floor safety plan – but if it doesn’t include procedures and tools for handling floors that get slippery as a result of inclement weather, it may not be complete. Here are some low-cost tips to keep you one step ahead of the storm.
Even in dry weather, building entrances allow dirt, dry leaves and other slippery nuisance messes to enter your facility. Add rain or snow to the mix – especially on a smooth, finished floor – and the problems can multiply faster than you can grab a wet floor sign.
Entrance mats are a great line of defense for collecting dirt, rain and snow as employees enter the building – but only if they are the right type and length to do the job well. Check the following:
- Length – should be long enough to take three to six steps before stepping off the mat – the longer, the better
- Backing – should not allow the mat to slide when it’s on the floor
- Construction – should be bi-level to allow dirt, rain and snow to collect below the walking surface
- Borders – should not allow water to drain off the mat
When the weather is bad, it’s important to remember that entrance mats can be overwhelmed by heavy rain or snow events. When they become fully saturated, they won’t be able to do their job. If you can see footprints after someone steps off of a mat, or you see a puddle surrounding the entrance mat – it’s saturated and is not helping you to maintain a safe entrance.
Saturated mats need to be replaced so that they do not add to the slip hazard by giving people a false impression that the area is safe. It’s a good idea to have a second – and possibly a third – set of dry mats that can be rotated into service when the weather is bad. Just make sure the floor is dry before putting the new mats down. If keeping multiple sets of mats isn’t an option, consider:
- Using fans or floor dryers to speed up the drying process. They’re typically sort of loud, and that can actually serve as an audible reminder for anyone in the area to pay attention
- Place absorbent mats in the entrance instead of walk-off mats to soak up water and provide additional traction
- Post signs or other warning devices near the entrance to alert people to slippery surfaces
- Consider using carpet tiles in entrances instead of mat runners
Sidewalks and Parking Lots
Caring for sidewalks sometimes get lumped into general parking lot care. However, many times the two surfaces are different. Parking lots are often asphalt or gravel; sidewalks are usually untreated cement or clay block. They’re also handled differently when it snows. Parking lots are usually plowed, but sidewalks are usually shoveled or snow-blown. Icy spots in a parking lot might get a healthy dose of rock salt, but sidewalks are more commonly treated with a salt substitute or maybe an anti-slip aggregate. Recognizing these differences can help increase safety in both areas when snow or ice is in the forecast.
One hazard both parking lots and sidewalks share is that snow and ice exponentially increase slipping hazards – especially when snow hides a layer of ice beneath it. Keeping outdoor areas clear of snow and ice in the winter can be a big challenge – especially for facilities with large outdoor campuses.
You might be able to get away without having a third set of floor mats, but having a well-established plan for how to handle snow and ice in parking lots and on sidewalks is essential. An added bonus of keeping parking lots and sidewalks clear is that less snowmelt will enter the building on people’s feet, so entranceways aren’t as quickly overwhelmed. Outdoor winter weather plans should include:
- Names of personnel responsible for snow removal, and phone numbers to reach them
- A time at which all snow that fell overnight will be removed (should be at least half an hour before shift changes)
- A process stating what will be plowed/shoveled/cleared first, second, etc.
- A list of tools available for snow removal, and their locations
- Sufficient quantities of anti-slip and/or deicing agents
- Strategies for maintaining snow removal during long snow or ice events
- Pre-printed signs, cones, barriers or other devices to identify hazardous areas that have not yet been cleared
Just because it’s not cold outside doesn’t mean that your attention can be turned away from parking lots and sidewalks. These areas can be overlooked during rain events because the surfaces are traditionally coarse, porous and are not especially slippery – even when they are wet. However, if parking lots or sidewalks are sealed, painted or have oil stains, the equation changes. If a non-texturized paint is used to mark handicap ramps, draw attention to curbs, paint parking lines, or note variations in the walking surface, these lines and markings can be very slippery when it rains. Choosing paints with aggregate in them can help minimize these hazards.
No one can control rain, snow or ice. But, facilities that have plans in place to prevent bad weather from making surfaces slippery are better able to manage these events and minimize the potential for slips and falls.
You tell us: Do you have any unique ways that you fight slip and trip risks due to bad weather? Let us know in the comments section below!