Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls: Don’t Let the Ice Take You Down
When you hear the words, “Workplace Accident,” what is the first thing you think of?
For many people, we assume they only happen to individuals in highly dangerous jobs (i.e.
logging, construction, mining) and often are the result of some failure in a piece of equipment
that we would never use. In other words, workplace accidents are not likely to happen
to us. While that is true for most fatal workplace accidents, the truth is that we are
exposed to workplace injuries more than we know.
My first job out of college was as a “risk control specialist” for a property management company in Madison,
WI. My job was to put policies, procedures, and training in place for our maintenance technicians and Property
Managers to reduce the risk of workplace accidents. At the time, I thought cuts, or possibly a fall from a ladder,
would be the most severe injuries we would have. That first winter, I was proven wrong. A Property Manager of
ours was walking from her vehicle to the office on an especially cold January morning. As she approached the curb,
her foot hit a patch of black ice, she fell forward and knocked her teeth out against the curb. $36,500 was the direct
medical cost of the injury, but the accident was a lot more expensive than we thought—we did not consider the
indirect costs or hidden costs (training a new manager to assist, additional therapy appointments, lost time). By
the time it was all said and done, that single slip cost us over $150,000. Our Property Manager was out of work for
three months recovering and will have issues chewing for the rest of her life. We did not work in a highly accident
prone field, so how could this have happened?
Early and late winter are unpredictable in Illinois and the Midwest. We can have warming temperatures during
the day and freezing temperatures during the evening, which can lead to icy conditions. When we walk during
warmer parts of the year, our brains are predisposed to anticipating where our foot will land and the surface it will
contact. In the winter, we change one of the variables, the surface we will contact, and sometimes it can lead to a
slip, or a situation where you almost slip but catch yourself. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 there were
197,260 cases of “falls on the same level” in the United States. In 2015, employers in the United States lost 421,610
working days due to sprains, strains, and muscular tears. These injuries require an average of 10 days away from
work compared to eight days away for all other types of injuries. We do not just see the medical costs, we also see
two weeks away from work, loss of production or a decrease in production, continued monitoring, and possible
How do we protect ourselves? When it comes to walking in the winter, we simply need to look at our friends
from the south. See image below.
Wearing shoes that have non-slip soles, walking slowly, and increased awareness are also key to preventing slips, trips, and falls on the ice.