Eliminating winter slip, trip and fall hazards

OSHA walking-working surfaces

The leading cause of workplace injuries is slips, trips and falls. As the winter months approach, it’s necessary to give extra attention to icy and wet surfaces to maintain an OSHA-compliant workplace. First, identify hazards, then make repairs, and, finally, stay prepared.

Snow and ice are not the only hazards to consider. Performing a hazard assessment on all walking and working surfaces before the cold comes can identify imperfections that can be disguised when the snow falls. Potholes, sidewalk cracks and uneven walking surfaces can be exacerbated by the cold. Shorter days and longer nights are also a hazard reducing visibility if there is insufficient lighting, and coming inside from the snow brings hazards into the facilities and trucks. 

The OSHA rule requires employers to maintain walking-working surfaces and keep them free of hazards. Some of these areas include access and egress routes, sidewalks and parking lots.  According to 29 CFR 1910.22(d), hazards identified, such as cracks or potholes, must be repaired immediately and, if it cannot be done immediately, it must be guarded to prevent anyone from using it until the repair is complete. When making repairs to walkways, consider stairs and handrails as well. Check drains and clear any debris out that would prevent them from properly draining.  Ensure all lighting works properly and is adequate for the area. It is easier to replace bulbs while the ground is still dry.

Keeping supplies, such as ice melt and shovels, stocked will ensure employees have what they need to keep outdoor areas properly treated.  Keep snow blowers and other equipment tuned up and ready for use. Have wet floor signage or barricades available to deploy to warn both consumers and employees about walking surface conditions. If areas are unable to be cleared of snow and ice, consider making available traction devices for footwear and take slow short paces to react faster to a potential slip. 

Identifying hazards, eliminating them, and having a plan to keep surfaces clean and dry, will minimize the chance of injury caused by slips, trips and falls.