Loss Control Insights
Don't Let Black Ice Catch You By Surprise
Although it may appear the cold weather is behind us as temperatures begin to reach the 40s and 50s, black ice may still linger. Nearly 25 percent of all workplace injuries are caused by slips and falls on snowy or icy surfaces. Many of those accidents happen as a result of black ice (when snow melts and refreezes). “Most people are caught off guard by this weather phenomena during late winter/early spring,” explains EMC Senior Engineer Larry Readout. “They may not notice this layer of dark ice early in the morning, or it may be hidden by a layer of snow.” Worse yet, the ice layer formed during refreeze conditions is typically more slippery than ice at very cold temperatures. EMC recommends a three-step procedure for reducing the likelihood of slips and falls caused by black ice:
- Be aware. Ice often appears in the morning in shady spots where snow melted during the day and then refroze after sunset. Recognize potential refreezing situations by monitoring weather conditions and carefully checking walkway conditions, especially early in the morning. Be sure to check areas where water may accumulate as a result of drain spouts and roof lines. Remember to have maintenance crews use ice cleats or other footwear accessories for personal safety when checking for slippery surfaces.
- Treat walkways. Shovel and treat walkways with ice melt or traction aids (e.g., paver base, oil absorbent or chicken grit) before employees and/or customers arrive.
- Warn employees and customers. Use caution signs or safety cones to mark any treacherous areas, especially in high-traffic walkways.
Providing a clean, dry walking surface may not always be feasible during the winter season, but a winter slip and fall prevention program that addresses thaw/refreeze conditions can help reduce the likelihood and severity of slips and falls.