Don’t Fall Into Winter – Keep Your Parking Lots and Walkways Safe
For some people, it’s the most wonderful time of the year but in reality, as we move from Fall into Winter, we enter one of the most hazardous times of the year. The days become shorter, temperatures drop, the ground freezes, winter weather looms and the risk of slips, trips and falls increases at home, play and work. It’s no wonder that November is Fall Protection Month.
Falls account for almost 20% of work-related time loss injuries nationwide and are often caused by slips and trips on same level surfaces as opposed to falls from heights. This time of year is especially dangerous as workers navigate their way to and from the workplace, often over snow and ice-covered surfaces. Should a slip, trip, or fall happen while a worker is making their way to or from work it can result in an acceptable workers’ compensation claim.
According to most provinces, all workers are entitled to safe entry and exit to and from the worksite and are considered to be in the course of their employment while making appropriate use of employer premises. “Employer’s premises” are defined as buildings or property owned or leased by the employer and/or any worksite where the employer is conducting business. WCB coverage is therefore extended but not limited to:
- Common areas and hallways en route to the employer’s place of business in shared premises
- Attached or adjacent parking lots owned, operated, or leased by the employer
- Remote parking lots, if the employer has arranged parking privileges there for the worker
Any injury that occurs while an employee is entering or exiting ‘employer premises’ for the purposes of their employment may be covered if a hazard of the premises contributed to the injury. This includes slips, trips, and falls on snow and ice-covered parking lots and walkways.
Injuries from these incidents happen more frequently than you might think and employers take a substantial hit not just with lost time, lost manpower, and lost productivity, but potentially increased WCB claims costs. Slippery surfaces due to weather conditions are a known and calculable hazard, as such employers are fortunate that they are able to take action to reduce or even eliminate the risks and avoid accidents.
A proactive approach through an effective Health & Safety Management Program can go a long way to educate employees and prevent incidents. Now is a good opportunity for an all-hands health and safety meeting to review the increased risks that come with the change in the weather this time of year. The following are some great recommendations to get things started:
- Keep all walkways clear of ice and snow.
- Have de-icing products handy for hard-to-remove ice or snow.
- Make sure all walkways and passageways are clearly marked and well lit.
- Clearly mark or barricade hazardous areas.
- Remind staff to
- Wear slip-resistant footwear
- Practice safe walking on slippery surfaces by taking slow, small steps.
- Avoid carrying heavy loads that may offset your balance.
- Take extra precautions when entering and exiting vehicles.
Further tips on how to prevent slips, trips and falls can be found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) website, as well as infographics that can be posted in the workplace.
And it’s not just for staff that employers need to pay attention to their property management at this time of year. As an employer, the safety of anyone using your premises is your responsibility, therefore you can be held liable for any injuries that result from unsafe worksite conditions. Failure to ensure that winter storm clean-up is done properly can result in Third-Party Action lawsuits or even a transfer of WCB claims costs from another employer if their employee was injured on your premises.
Conversely, should one of your employees be injured in a parking lot, on a walkway, or on-premises not owned by you, there may be an opportunity to remove the claims costs off of your claims record.
When your employees are at work, any injury that arises out of and occurs during the course of their employment is covered by workers’ compensation, even if the accident didn’t happen on your premises. However, if the owner of the premises where your worker was injured is also an employer, you can request the claim costs be transferred to that employer. If the owner of the premises is not an employer, costs may be recovered through third-party action initiated by the WCB Legal Department. While the success of either of these actions is not guaranteed, it is always worth exploring.
Beyond adhering to local bylaws regarding clean-up following winter storms, it is in an employer’s best interest to address their premises as soon as possible, even before a storm is over. This can help minimize the risks of slips, trips, and falls prior to the anticipated use by employees, clients, or customers. Whether winter storm clean-up is handled internally or contracted out, ensuring that surfaces are de-iced and free of snow is one of the best defenses against unnecessary accidents and injuries.
If you have questions, concerns or issues regarding work-related injuries and employer’s liability or parking lot and employer premises claims you can reach us directly at [email protected], [email protected], by phone at 1-844-377-9545 or you can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.