Watch Your Step! Investigating Slip and Falls on Ice

The CDC reports that more than 800,000 people are hospitalized annually due to a slip and fall incidents. In fact, most brain injuries are caused by slips, trips, and falls. Now that winter is here, the number of slips and falls on snow or ice are likely to increase. When an incident like this occurs, the individual may be quick to blame the business or property owner. However, the owner may not be at fault if proper snow removal procedures were followed in a timely manner.

Many aspects of snow accumulation are beyond the control of the business owner since snow fall is a natural occurrence and the collection on the property can be driven by wind. It could become an unnatural accumulation when snow is moved by plows, snow shovels or snow blowers; snow piles melt and may cause icy patches if the temperatures drop below freezing; an awning protects a patch of ice from the sun; or a downspout or roof edge allow water to drain on walkways which changes to ice in freezing temperatures.

Both types of accumulation can cause a slip and fall accident, and both aspects should be monitored to prevent potential hazards. When someone falls outside a building, CED engineers evaluate factors such as: walkway design to include location and slope, snow removal procedures, weather reports, and whether the snow collection was influenced by the removal process itself.

Our engineers perform an onsite inspection and typically collect the following data, if available:

  • Photographs of the scene
  • Incident location
  • Witness statements
  • Incident victim’s statement
  • Medical records
  • Weather and topography data
  • Snow removal procedures

Since lack of traction can be the main reason for most slip and fall accidents on snow and ice, restoring traction to outside surfaces is extremely important. This can be done by applying sand and/or a variety of ice melt products. Pedestrians should try to avoid shaded areas and crossing metal plates such as sewer grates. However, if an accident still occurs, CED can assist with engineers who have years of experience working on slip, trip, and falls.

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