The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than one million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall injury and more than 19,000 people die in the U.S. annually because of these injuries. About 20% to 30% of people who experience a slip and fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, or head injuries, according to the CDC. These injuries can inhibit mobility and hamper independent living. Slip, trip and fall accidents are also the common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which account for 46% of fatal falls among older Americans. The most common fractures that occur from slip and fall accidents are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
The National Safety Council (NSC) cities “falls” as a leading cause of unintentional injury-related death at work. Furthermore, a Distinguished Programs study indicates that slips and falls are the leading source of guest injury, claims, and insurance costs in the hospitality industry. This is particularly relevant as restaurants are now utilizing outdoor space on sidewalks and streets to generate business amid COVID-19 restrictions.
While each season presents its own set of risks, with winter right around the corner, frost will soon make its first appearance of the year making sidewalks, parking lots, and other areas slippery underfoot. Building managers at community associations, offices, and warehouses as well as other facilities along with restaurants and hotels should be reinforcing their loss-prevention measures now to maximize safety for the slippery season to come. Following are some suggestions to mitigate the risk of slips, trips, and falls that you can pass on to your insureds.
- Check the condition of the concrete, stone tiles, and stairs in and around the property. Are there any cracks that need filling in before colder conditions set in?
- As it’s getting dark sooner in the day, evaluate any uneven areas or hard-to-see curbs or steps, and consider marking these areas with reflective signs, yellow paint, or yellow tape.
- Consider adding additional lighting to illuminate parking lots and walkways to help increase visibility.
- Assess the lobby or entryway of the property as hazards from the outside such as water, leaves, and sand tend to make their way inside as seasons change. Determine the appropriate amount of anti-slip matting that should be installed.
- In evaluating the entryway, make sure to keep an eye on where water tends to puddle up or where the most ice or snow accumulates. Plan to remove these challenges to safe entry in a timely and efficient manner.
- Pave all parking lots and walkways to allow snow/ice removal to take place.
- Make sure parking lot and walkway drains are free from debris and are in working condition.
- Take advantage of hours when the parking lot is empty of cars. This is when snow, ice, slush, and frozen run-off must be removed which is not possible with a full parking lot.
- Clear paths in the parking lot for walking and mark them with signs or pylons.
- Always have ice melt, salt,and shovels on hand for quick cleanups. It is also wise to install anti-slip treads in these areas to make surfaces less slick and provide more traction.
Mitigating Slips & Falls with the Extension of Outdoor Dining into Winter
As mentioned, restaurants throughout the country have converted outdoor sidewalks, patios, and even parking lots into outdoor dining space. It’s important that, as restaurants continue to offer outdoor dining into the winter months, they take extra precautions to prevent slips and falls. This includes:
- Ensuring walking surfaces are properly secured, level, and free of slip and fall hazards or debris.
- Avoiding the use of loose surface material (pavers, crushed stone, etc.).
- Placing dining furniture at an appropriate distance from elevations (such as curbs).
- Ensuring adequate lighting is in place in all customer areas for clear visibility for walking areas.
- Assuring wires from temporary lighting are properly guarded to prevent tripping.
- Maintaining a clear path of pedestrian travel near public sidewalks and restaurant walkways.
- Keeping dining areas six feet from corners, crosswalks, curbs, bus shelters, and public seating to facilitate social distancing and to help reduce slip/trip/fall exposures.
In addition, all businesses should conduct a thorough safety walk around the property on a weekly basis, paying attention to any immediate changes, shifts in the seasons, and any stray objects, messes, or spills that may have appeared.
You can find additional risk management tips for preventing slips, trips and falls here.