Winter Slip and Fall Prevention Measures

As winter weather approaches, read our suggested slip and fall prevention measures for retailers with brick and mortar locations.

caution wet floor sign at an entrance

Winter brings a unique set of challenges for retailers, including a greater risk of slip and falls due to slippery conditions. If your customer hurts themselves inside or outside your store, they can demand compensation, or even sue you. On the bright side, with some extra care, slip and fall incidents are largely preventable by paying careful attention to the following issues:

  • Wet floors - Increased efforts are necessary to control and minimize wet floors throughout the store, especially during winter months. Non-slip mats and/ or runners should be installed at entrances.
  • Snow and ice removal - This is a key activity during winter months. Whether or not you use a snow removal contractor, it is important to prepare and document your efforts.
  • Floors and mats - These will need to be cleaned more frequently.
  • In-store surveillance systems - In the event of an incident, preserve the recording.
  • Applying salt to parking lots and walkways - If the entire lot is not salted, then the area where pedestrian traffic is not restricted should be cordoned off.
  • Training your staff - Your staff should immediately correct unsafe conditions and take appropriate actions when dealing with a potentially injured customer.
  • Site inspections - It is prudent to inspect the site and routinely document your actions to check for slippery areas and apply sand or sand/salt to reduce the likelihood of slips and falls.
  • Snow clearing equipment and ice melting materials - Make sure that snow clearing equipment and ice melting materials are readily available.

    


Take these precautions to prevent slips or falls because of ice and/or snow:

  • Monitor the snow removal contractor’s clearing and salting activities;
  • Log weather conditions daily and record maintenance activities including the time of day and the extent of the work conducted;
  • Know the specific areas that are your own responsibility to keep clear such as sidewalks and parking lot access; and
  • Pay special attention to areas where ice and snow accumulates and look out for areas with freeze/thaw cycles.

You need to be extra diligent to keep your premises safe in the winter. Good documentation is critical to defend against slip/fall claims.

Keeping accurate snow removal records

The following information should be recorded:

  • Extent of work conducted;
  • Description of the areas maintained;
  • Weather conditions;
  • Time of day; and
  • Initials of the person doing the work.

  

Using a snow removal contractor

It is a good strategy to use a collaborative approach when working with snow removal contractors as they may be named in a negligence claim. This will create a more consistent risk mitigation program and may help reduce claims costs.

We suggest performing an inspection of the premises before the winter and to preplan where excess snow accumulation will be stored. Areas of concern should be identified such as dripping fascia, leaking eaves troughs, and water pooling in low spots. Snow storage areas need to have adequate drainage so that melt run off does not refreeze.

The snow removal contract should include recordkeeping requirements by the contractor and other provisions specific to your particular business needs.

  


A Quick Checklist

Having a sound snow removal contract in place is good risk management. The following items should be carefully considered when securing snow removal contracts:

  • Responsibilities of each party;
  • Maintenance trigger(s);
  • Responsibility for record keeping; and
  • Insurance clauses or “hold harmless” agreements

Protect yourself by ensuring your snow removal contract covers all the essential elements.


  

If you do not use a contractor

If you plan to do your own snow clearing, it is important that all surfaces be kept as clear as possible at all times. All snow removal activities including salting and sanding efforts should be documented for possible defense purposes in the event of a claim on your premises.

Recordkeeping

Consistent documentation is important to manage the claims and/or discovery process. Snow logs should be maintained by the contractor and/or the site — documenting at a minimum, the date and time of day, description of the areas maintained, extent of work conducted, the person performing the work, temperature, weather conditions, materials, and quantities used. Use housekeeping logs to record inspections of the store. Maintain all records for as long as necessary to comply with your document retention policy.

If an incident occurs

  • The first priority is determining if the customer is injured and if medical attention is required. Do not try to move the person and do not treat them unless qualified to do so. Call an ambulance, if required, so that emergency services can assist the customer.
  • You should not admit fault to the customer. Showing genuine concern for the customers well-being is often enough to prevent them from taking legal action.
  • Training your staff on the appropriate actions to take when dealing with a potentially injured customer will be helpful if you are not at the store.
  • If video surveillance captures the incident, create a copy and store it in case it is needed in the future.
  • Immediately complete an incident report recording as many details as possible.

A little extra vigilance during winter months will go a long way towards keeping slip and fall incidents in check.

For more information on conducting an assessment of your current risk exposures and controls, please contact your local Marsh representative or visit www.marsh.ca