Preventing Falls in Unexpected Outdoor Locations
Over the course of the past several years, many staff members have been injured, often seriously, while outside of facility buildings. In fact, more than 21% of employee slip, trip, and fall injuries occur outside among our customer organizations. Many of these incidents take place during the winter season as a result of ice or other inclement weather. For instance, while throwing away trash, a maintenance worker from New York slipped on ice near the dumpster and severely strained his back. Employees often don’t think about their own safety when dealing with dangerous outdoor conditions and the potential for their own slip, trips and falls in unexpected areas, such as sidewalks, trash disposal (dumpster) areas and lesser-trafficked portions of the parking lots.
- Contracting out snow and ice removal services may be an effective solution to prevent many slip, trip, fall incidents due to inclement weather. Many of these professionals have proven safety improvement records, as well as specialized tools and equipment to more thoroughly remove hazardous conditions.
- Be cognizant of areas employees frequent but members do not. Keep in mind areas like dumpsters, side/back entrances, emergency exits, maintenance facilities, areas of the parking lot that are farther from the main entrance, and so on. These areas need to be treated when expecting inclement weather, and should be routinely inspected to see if any repairs need to be made.
- Be especially cautious when walking in low-traffic areas. Injuries that occur here may not be noticed by another employee or member for some time, posing a more significant risk for someone who experiences a fall.
- Proper signage is a great visual reminder to be observant for adverse conditions
- Signs can highlight dangerous weather conditions (i.e. Beware of ice, slippery when wet, etc.)
- Signs can also point out uneven ground, potholes, sidewalks, and more
- Ensure that all maintenance/grounds staff are appropriately trained in clearing weather-affected areas. Please see our document, Winter Walking Safety for more information.
- Suggest that employees who frequent the outdoors in inclement weather wear appropriate footwear. This includes shoes and boots that provide maximum amount of traction.
- Boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles are best
- Avoid shoes with plastic or leather soles
Safety considerations related to slip, trip and fall accidents are often limited to protecting members and guests from harm, sometimes at the expense of employee safety. Salting, de-icing, snow removal and maintenance efforts are logically focused on high-traffic areas where members are likely to walk. However, this does not mean problem areas for the employees can be ignored because members are unlikely to come into contact with them. Sidewalks and potholes in disrepair at the margins of parking lots, as well as outdoor trash disposal areas, are traversed frequently by employees and pose significant risks if not dealt with properly.