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Loss Control Insights for Schools

9 Steps to Prevent Slips and Falls Before the Winter Storm Hits

children walking

Slips, trips and falls are problems year-round for schools but are much more prevalent in the winter. Preparing ahead of time can help keep students, staff and visitors safe. Check out these tips to help you prevent slips and falls before the storm hits.

  1. Inspect for Damage. Most slip and falls happen outdoors, so it’s important to inspect your parking lots and sidewalks for cracks, potholes and damage and repair these areas before winter hits. These damaged areas can be easily hidden by snow or can collect water, which can freeze and lead to a slip and fall accident. Don’t forget to make sure all your handrails are properly mounted with at least a 3-in clearance between the handrail and the wall.
  2. Eliminate Hazardous Drainage. Make sure downspouts are not discharging across walking surfaces. This causes wet and icy sidewalk conditions. Instead, channel the runoff underneath a walkway or away from sidewalks.
  3. Plan for Snow and Ice Removal. Discuss your snow and ice removal plan ahead of time with your in-house staff or snow-removal contractor. Make sure you have outlined when and how often snow should be removed (we recommend after 1-in of accumulation), and you have identified a piling area away from walking routes. Be sure to verify that all contractors have the proper liability insurance coverage. If your employees will be removing the snow, make sure they have the right equipment for the job, such as insulated slip-resistant boots, gloves and snow removal equipment.
  4. Inspect Walking Surfaces Frequently. Designate a couple staff members to monitor the walking surfaces during the winter and set up reporting procedures. Use an inspection checklist to make sure all areas of concern are checked regularly. EMC’s Walkway Check app can help you with this.
  5. Designate a Weather Monitor. Have someone monitor the weather and warn your employees of potential slippery conditions if winter weather is imminent.
  6. Think About Proper Footwear. Encourage your employees to wear slip-resistant footwear every day, but especially before a winter storm hits. Avoid spiked heels, leather soles or shoes with little or no traction. Shoes with rubber soles, flat heels and multi-channel tread do a much better job of preventing a slip, trip or fall.
  7. Pretreat Your Sidewalks. If possible, apply a liquid ice control product to your sidewalks before the storm arrives. This can help prevent snow and ice from bonding to the surface.
  8. Be Mindful of Mats. Place scraper mats on the outside of you building and water-absorbent mats inside of each building entrance. Instruct your maintenance staff to ensure all mats are in good condition with no curled or torn edges, worn face material or cracks. Set up a plan to rotate and clean your mats to extend their usable life.
  9. Encourage Employees to Help. Place drums of ice melt and shovels to encourage employees to take care of any slippery spots they notice.

After the Storm
After a winter storm, clear parking lots and sidewalks before staff members arrive and continue to monitor them throughout the day. Be sure to perform walkway audits to identify areas of snow and ice buildup. Apply coarse sand or oil absorbent on wet or icy areas. Monitor the floors for puddles and mop up water immediately. Replace saturated mats or dry them with a wet vacuum or extractor.