How Quickly They Fall!

How Quickly They Fall!

By Shawn Bubb, Director of MSGIA Insurance Services

Despite the seasonal, cyclical, and, frankly, predictable nature of our situation in Montana, 33-39% of annual statewide claims are for slip and falls in ice and snow.  In fact, year after year, the #1 cause of injuries for our Montana school district employees is slipping and falling on the icy, snow-covered ground. Not surprisingly, the financial costs are significant – ranging from $1.5 million to almost $1.9 million – and the personal impacts of these weather-related injuries are equally significant.

Thankfully, many of these injuries can be prevented with awareness training, effective grounds maintenance, and sound decision-making. For starters, knowing where the most dangerous locations are and communicating with staff about these hazards can help prevent many injuries.  In the winter, your school parking lots (especially as these are associated with the surprisingly risky act of getting in and out of vehicles), sidewalks, and exterior stairs are the most common places for a slip and fall to occur.

Knowing this information begs the question, what can a school do?  First and foremost, before the rain turns to snow and the blowing leaves of fall become the blizzards of winter, it’s imperative that principals and supervisors add Fall/Slip to staff meeting agendas as a reminder to everyone to work safely. And when winter does arrive, be sure after every storm that parking lots are plowed and a sand/gravel mix applied generously.  Moreover, as part of this clearing process, be sure all sidewalks, exterior walkways, and exterior stairs are cleared of snow and ice, and be sure that ice melt is liberally distributed where appropriate.  And, to keep the walk-in grime out of hallways, provide large walk-off mats in entryways and vestibules. 

As importantly – and as part of your above-mentioned staff meetings wherein winter safety measures are discussed – be sure that all employees are enlisted in these safety efforts.  If they notice a slick spot, they should know to alert the maintenance team and, when necessary and appropriate, to take the initiative to spread some salt and sand—after all, everyone’s safety is everyone’s business.

Another thing to note is the time of day when the most slips and falls occur.  The morning hours are the clear winner, closely followed by the time range when school lets out for the day.  Again, it gets back to employee foot traffic on the sidewalks, exterior pathways, exterior stairs, and parking lots.

The easiest and most effective prevention measure pertains not so much to what the maintenance staff does but instead to the steps (literally!) each individual employee takes to be careful and safe. How employees walk to/from the building and what type of shoes/boots they wear to school will make all the difference when it comes to reducing the number of slip and fall incidences. Proper footwear is your best chance to lower your injury rate and keep yourselves safe, especially when paired with a good pair of ice trekkers—just be sure to remove them before entering the building. And don’t forget, as in years past, it’s best to let fashion slip in the wintertime, so you don’t! 

Finally, I cannot overstate the value of constantly talking with your colleagues about accident prevention, about wearing good grippy footwear, and about the critical importance of taking careful steps. Do so and you will have a much better shot at having an injury-free winter! 

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