Slip and fall accidents account for 15% of all accidental deaths in the United States. Annually, an estimated one million Americans will have an injury related to a fall, 600,000 will be hospitalized and 17,000 deaths will occur.

Studies find most injuries result from contact with outside surfaces. Property owners could be liable for injuries sustained on their property if they did not ensure a safe environment for visitors to walk. According to a fourteen year Distinguished Programs study, Slips and falls are the leading source of guest injury, claims, and insurance cost.

Due to the increased risk of snow and ice, winter months are particularly dangerous and costly to businesses as fall rates increase. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to help you ensure safe walking conditions for employees and your guests.

  • Know your laws. While you may be protected from liability during an active storm, many states have strict time limits for how quickly you must remove the snow from walkway, parking lots and steps – from as little as four hours in New York to 24 hours in Virginia.
  • Be sure you have an ice removal program in place which includes the following:
    • How to remove and treat snow and ice on walkways, ramps, stairs and parking lots
    • Placement of non-skid floor mats for a distance of 40 feet, and caution signs at all entryways
    • Identify how quickly removal of snow and ice will take place in connection with snowfall – see state laws
    • Keep a legible, written log of snow clearing activities to serve as a record of when snow and ice removal was carried out. Include the following information:
      • Property name
      • Location
      • Date and time
      • Action taken
      • Initials or signature of person performing activity
  • Implement a shoe policy asking employees to wear anti-slip soled shoes
  • Put up notice or send out an email asking employees, residents or visitors to report snow and ice related hazards
  • Consider hiring a professional snow and ice removal service. It’s a great way to save time and reduce your properties liability. Be sure to have the contractor sign an agreement ensuring services, laws and insurance needs are in place.
  • Have your property inspected periodically by an expert for structural issues that could lead to potential slip, trips or falls
  • Check with your insurance provider to make sure snow related injuries and damages are covered by your policy
  • If an accident is to happen fill out an incident report form immediately and take photographs of the area where the accident occurred

Remember, ice is twice as slippery at 30˚F as at 0˚F. To help, here is a Managing Risk Checklist as well as templates for an incident report and snow and ice removal log for you and your insureds convenience.