Salting Winter Sidewalks

Slip and falls represent a huge liability for business owners. Outdoor surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks and walkways, are one of the leading areas for slip and fall accidents. These areas become increasingly more hazardous in the winter with the accumulation of snow and ice. Slip and falls are the number one source of loss for Society Insurance policyholders for both customer and employee injuries.

If you own your property you are responsible for the snow and ice removal. If you are a tenant who leases your space check your lease agreement to see who is responsible for snow and ice removal; it may be you! Whether it is in an effort to save time or money, some business owners opt out of using ice melt on slippery sidewalks and entryways. By doing nothing, business owners open themselves up to customer liability claims as well as employee injury.  Business owners should have a winter snow removal and ice treatment plan to prevent customers and employees from slipping and falling.

Ice melt plays a major role in preventing slip and fall accidents because it reduces and can even rid pavement surfaces of ice. If a parking lot or sidewalk has been shoveled, a business owner may not think there is a need to put down ice melt. However, underneath the snow there is typically a thin layer of ice that would be reduced if ice melt was used. Even a light dusting of snow can lead to slippery conditions, especially if the temperature drops below freezing as the day wears on.

Having snow and ice safety controls in place is important in preventing slip and fall accidents.  Pre-application of ice melt before a storm can have a huge impact on ice and snow removal and ice melt application cycle. Here are a few tips to safely and effectively use ice melt if you need to get rid of ice around your business or on your sidewalks. These include:

  1. Place a container of ice melt at the door to spot treat door entrances and sidewalks.
  2. Don’t forget about pre-application of ice melt before a snow storm to prevent ice accumulation and reduce the slippery conditions.
  3. Remove all accumulated snow with a shovel or snow blower.
  4. Apply a thin, even layer of ice melt over all walking surfaces. Use a cup for spot treating small areas and use a lawn fertilizer spreader for larger areas. Wear gloves to protect your hands.
  5. Conduct periodic inspections of the property to look for hazardous areas, such as entrances and sidewalks.
  6. Pay particular attention to areas that will be in sun early in the day and in shadow later in the day. What is a puddle in the morning sunlight will become a sheet of ice in a late afternoon shadow!
  7. Use de-icing products as directed!

We’ve used the term ‘ice melt,’ rather than salt, on purpose. Not all ice melt is created equal; some can be hazardous to pets, some will adversely affect grass and plants, and some will cause concrete to deteriorate. Society Insurance advocates the use of ice melt, but does not recommend any specific ice melt product. Each business owner will have to decide what product will work best for their location.  To help you make that decision, check out this Consumer Reports article and comparison chart.

Click here for handouts and useful websites from our Risk Management team to help facilitate safety and health efforts at your business.

-Amanda Barra

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