Cold weather can sometimes last well into spring, and the potential for slips and falls will last along with it. Falls on icy surfaces account for 30 percent of slip-related work injury claims. If you are a business owner, you do not want any of your employees to suffer an injury, nor do you want to be faced with a costly lawsuit. Therefore, you must make it a priority to provide as safe a workplace environment as possible.
Comply with OSHA and state regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of regulations employers must follow regarding the establishment of a safe workplace environment. In addition, state courts consider different levels of responsibility required of employers with respect to workplace injuries. If the company has offices or facilities in other states, you must comply with the regulations of those states.
Check for leaks
Fixing any leaks you find in your buildings before cold weather sets in is always a good idea, but a small leak may be overlooked by the time winter comes. Remember that water forms ice. During cold weather, a leak that appears innocent enough during warm weather can pool into an icy spot that might be almost invisible on a stretch of pavement or sidewalk that employees often use. A spot like this needs to be marked with a sign at least, or a cone that will warn people away from the area.
Use caution signs
A “slippery when wet” sign should be used wherever there are icy areas outside your building. Make sure they can be easily seen: large signs with bright lettering. Use these signs inside as well, wherever people track in snow and ice. Make sure there are rugs near entrances so employees can wipe off their shoes.
Share information with employees
Educate your employees about slip and fall dangers and make them aware of any areas that might become icy and slippery. You can share this kind of information through a newsletter or email, asking people to report the locations of icy patches you have not identified. Be ready with salt or sand and spread it generously; remember that the melting process takes time.
Use a communication system
You might want to form a communications team whose job it is to monitor TV and radio reports of winter weather advisories and pass along the information. Through email blasts to computers and smartphones, the team can notify employees of traffic problems as well as company parking lot and walkway conditions. Website and intranet postings can also be made.
Be ready for lawsuits
You do not want to think about potential slip and fall injuries and the inevitable lawsuits, but it is best to be prepared. Create an accident report form that includes the location of the accident, the time of day the accident occurred, whether there was a caution sign and related information. Your goal is to prove that as the employer, you did everything you could to ensure a safe workplace. In the event you are faced with a lawsuit, an attorney experienced with cases involving workplace accidents and employee injuries is standing by to help.