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Free fallin’…identifying areas of pedestrian peril

  • SIMA
- Posted: October 23, 2017
Commercial sites are fraught with potential slip and fall areas. As noted in the recent Snow Business tear and teach on risk assessments (download it for free here), it is important to consider three risk areas of concern when defining levels of service, inspecting sites preseason for risks, and communicating those risks proactively to the client. Those three risk areas are hazards and damage, site and environmental, and behavioral (human).
For Snow Safety Week, we conducted an informal survey of SIMA members and e-newsletter subscribers to identify the most common areas where pedestrians were most likely to slip and fall during winter weather (focusing on site and environmental risks). According to the survey, following were the top areas of concern:
1. Black ice. Out of a possible 10-point scale, black ice ranked 7.4 for the most common area for a slip and fall. While black ice isn’t an “area” per se, black ice can occur in many different spots, particularly when sites are subject to melt/refreeze conditions. Radiative cooling (when surface temperatures drop below the air temperature and surfaces emit heat into the colder upper atmosphere) is a leading cause of black ice. It can happen quickly, leaving unsuspecting pedestrians at risk. Your contractual level of service and resultant scope of work should include who is responsible for ice patrol (aka 'ice watch') and how follow-up treatment will be managed.
2. Steps/curbs (6.6/10). Stepping on and off curbs and navigating steps is a prime area of concern. Crews should be properly trained to service these areas, and extra care should be given to the curb lines to prevent snow/ice buildup where pedestrians would step from the curb/steps into the parking lot/walkway. Several North American insurance carriers have identified the curb/step area as the place where most people slip and fall during snow events. 
3. Runoff sites (6.5/10). When conducting a risk assessment of a site, use an eagle eye to identify hazards that don’t look ominous when it’s not snowing but could cause big problems during the winter. Areas include drainage spouts, gutters, drains that flow directly onto the pavement, awnings, etc. Any of these could contribute to melt/refreeze, causing hazardous conditions. Be sure to make note of these areas and propose solutions for the property owner/facility manager.   
4. Parking spaces (6.4/10). Shifting weight and balance can be an issue as people get into or out of their cars when snow and ice is present. Compounding this is the fact that servicing parking lots is difficult since the presence of cars, cart corrals, etc., make a clear pass impossible. Short of hand shoveling between parked cars, there is little that can be done to help mitigate this risk. When site engineering, however, pay close attention to areas like cart corrals, dumpsters, etc., standalone hazards where it is possible to remove snow and ice (make sure you add that time/labor into your contract pricing).
5. Walkways (5.8/10). Rounding out the top 5 were walkways. Risks could include hidden depressions, the type of material (asphalt, concrete, pavers), black ice, snow and ice buildup, transitions from dry store entrances into the elements, etc. Properly train your walkway crews to clear snow and ice and encourage property management to post “slippery when wet/freezing” signs or other markers to alert pedestrians that hazardous conditions are present. You can’t control what shoes people are wearing or if they’re paying attention, but you can control your scope of work and operational aptitude to hold up your end of the contract.
Conducting risk assessments and comprehensive site engineering, and then properly training your teams on the expected level of service, can go a long way toward easing the possibility a pedestrian will fall on your site. 

View all 2017 Snow Safety week articles and content here. Thank you to our sponsors Caterpillar, BOSS Snowplow, and RAM Trucks
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