Winter Parking Lot Safety Tips

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Workers are at increased risk for slip, trip and fall accidents throughout the winter months in many parts of the country. This article looks at some of the ways employers can ensure employee safety in icy, snowy winter parking lots to help avoid accidents, injuries and lost time from work.

Avoiding Winter Slips, Trips and Falls in Workplace Parking Lots

Winter has already made its return to many parts of the country. Freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall and brisk winds are the reality for the next several months in areas like the Midwest and Northeast. With inclement weather comes the increased risk for slip and fall accidents – especially in icy parking lots or along walkways not properly cleared of snow.

Winter Parking Lot Safety: The Danger of Icy, Snow-Covered Parking Lots 

snow plow ensuring winter parking lot is safe

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in just one year, snow, ice and sleet caused 20,460 worker injuries. Following traffic accidents, slips, trips and falls are the second most common cause of accidental deaths in the United States. A slip and fall can also cause debilitating injuries and chronic pain, which often leads to time away from work for employees. Additionally, these injuries can result in increased workers’ compensation claims and high costs to employers.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure their parking lots and walkways are safe and passable at all times for workers and visitors. As the winter season begins, it’s even more critical to take the proper steps to help workers avoid injuries from slips, trips or falls during icy or snowy conditions. Accident studies indicate that almost 80% of slips and falls due to snow and ice occur in parking lots or on sidewalks.

Reducing Winter Slips, Trips and Falls: Contractual Risk Transfer for Snow Removal Contractors

It’s recommended that employers and property owners utilize accredited or certified snow removal contractors throughout the winter months in areas likely to get snow and ice accumulation. Hiring these contractors does not necessarily lower an employer’s liability, however. Without proper risk management programs in place, property owners may still be liable for accidents or injuries that occur due to a slip and fall in their parking lot or along walkways.

When hiring a snow removal contractor, several forms of documentation are needed to transfer the risk from the employer to the contractor. Risk transfer is a method of shifting risk from one party to another or sharing the burden of risk. The most commonly used form of risk transfer is insurance. At a minimum, the employer should require to be added to the contractor’s liability insurance as an “additional insured,” as well as obtain a certificate of insurance (COI) confirming that status. The COI should be obtained directly from the contractor’s agent/broker or directly from the contractor’s insurance carrier to avoid the potential of a fraudulent COI.

However, the COI is the minimum approach to transferring the risk to the contractor. The preferred way to transfer risk is to have legal counsel develop a contract between the employer and the contractor. A well-drafted risk transfer agreement is one of the most effective ways to ensure the risk of loss is properly allocated to the party that both creates the risk and can control that risk, a strategy known as contractual risk transfer (CRT).

What should a contract or agreement with a snow removal contractor include? Documentation should include, but is not limited to:
  • Hold harmless or indemnification agreements in the employer’s favor
  • The arrival and departure time of the snow removal crew
  • The quantity of material applied
  • A record of the conditions at the property when the crew arrived and left, including the weather, depth of the snow, etc.
  • The services performed and names of the crew, type of equipment used and the company names of any contractors or subcontractors
  • Notes regarding what areas may not have been serviced due to parked vehicles, or what areas may need additional service at a later time due to refreezing or melting snow
  • Any incidents that occurred
  • A log of all communications between the employer or property owner and the snow removal contractor, as well as all contact information, including names, titles and phone numbers

Winter Slip and Fall Prevention to Keep Workers Safe this Season

In addition to hiring a reliable snow removal company, there are a few things employers can do to help ensure the safety of their workers over the winter months:

Regularly inspect parking lots and walkways

Check for hazards like potholes, cracks and uneven surfaces that can increase the risk of a slip or fall, especially during inclement weather. Curbs, islands and wheel stops should be painted in contrasting colors to indicate a change in elevation.

Increase or replace lighting as needed

Days are shorter and darker in the winter months, so make sure parking lots and walkways have ample lighting. This is especially important for workers who work early or later hours.

Install handrails

When navigating a slippery path, having something to hold on to can be crucial in avoiding a slip, trip or fall injury. If possible, employers should consider adding handrails to pathways and/or outdoor stairways to help employees maintain their balance.

Utilize proper floor mats inside and outside entryways

During inclement weather, employees are likely to track in snow or water as they enter the building. Place floor mats both inside and outside the doors so workers can wipe their shoes as they walk in. Employees should also be encouraged to wear heavy-soled boots to cross the parking lot and change into dry shoes when they are safely inside the building.

amtrust loss control services

Loss Control Services from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department specializes in risk management solutions. We can assess the specific hazards your employees may face and create customized workplace safety programs designed for your individual needs. We also offer effective workplace safety resources to help your organization take a proactive approach to reducing injuries and incidences on the job. Please contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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