Loss Control Insights
Sidewalk Fixes to Prevent Slips and Falls
Preventing outdoor walkway slips and falls is something you should focus on year-round. For example, in the spring you may notice areas where rain puddles excessively. In summer, you may observe that the soil abutting the sidewalk has dropped a few inches, causing low spots that may cause bike tires or shoes to dip dramatically enough to cause a spill. In the autumn, watch where leaves pile, causing slick spots or covering drains. And in the winter, of course there will be problems. Snow may drift onto walkways or melt and refreeze in particularly dangerous spots.
Sidewalk Hazards During All Seasons
It’s important to be searching for sidewalk issues during all seasons but it may be particularly important in the spring and summer to look for new hazards that may have popped up due to last winter’s weather. Here are two examples:
- Because of this year’s heavy snowfall, Company A plowed and piled hills of snow in areas of the property where snow had never been piled before. When that snow began melting, employees learned of a drainage problem affecting a main walkway. This area had never posed a problem in the past. Fortunately, a road in front of the parking lot was scheduled for replacement in the spring. With this newfound information on the drainage problem, Company A found a way to lower their storm sewer pipes 6-12 inches with correct sloping for better drainage. They were able to work with the road construction company to make the necessary connections during the road-building process. This action has improved the drainage problem.
- Company B’s roof slopes toward the front entrance of the building. With the heavy snowfall last winter, snow buildup on the roof reached 12-14 inches above the gutter. This was a setup for a freeze-thaw cycle: as snow melted, the runoff could not feed into the gutters, and instead, dripped in front of the main door of the building. The company erected a roof guard at the roof edge above the door, and at times, also had to close off that entrance to the building. While this is a good temporary measure, future fixes might include creating a roof extension to protect the walkway and direct water a different direction. This canopy could be made from material that allows light and heat through to melt the snow. Another longer-term option may be to add radiant heating units to the sidewalks as they are replaced. Doing so could prevent ice buildup in front of the doorway.
Sidewalk Maintenance and Care
A sidewalk and parking lot care and maintenance program is essential, with regular checks for cracks, heaving, poor drainage, foreign objects in pathways and more. EMC’s Walkway Check app can assist with these inspections. If you notice any issues, plan for your fix right away. You may need to consider a temporary solution, like blocking off the area with cones, until a more permanent repair can be made. If you need to make a temporary fix be sure to also plan ahead for long-term, permanent improvements.
Creative Solutions to Sidewalk Hazards
When considering options for sidewalk solutions, think outside of the box. Ask yourself questions like:
- Would using a sun reflector that directs light at a shaded area keep ice from forming?
- When adding a new roof, would a different material or different slope grade better protect our walkways from getting excess rain or snow cover? Would a darker roof color attract more sun and heat, allowing snow to melt more quickly? Could that action prevent snow buildup or freeze-thaw conditions on sidewalks?
- When replacing sidewalks or a parking lot walkway, could concrete color additives help make a dark corner more visible? Could contrasting colors on walkways help visitors and employees better see any sidewalk hazards or notice the edges of the walkway easier?
- Could grooving or etching in the concrete improve traction without allowing water or ice to pool in the grooves?
For more resources on preventing slips and falls outdoors and inside, too, refer to additional slips, trips and falls resources.