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Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

Ice, Ice Baby: How To Avoid An Injury From Slipping on Ice

For the most part, this winter season has been fairly mild with snow and ice, but simply typing that statement makes it feel like we’re practically inviting a multi-foot snowfall! As a result, we’re here to deliver some top tips for preventing winter weather foibles at the office. If those tips fail, we’ve also got you covered with the what to do if someone takes a spill.

But first, let’s explain why this is really an issue. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees racked up 20,520 workplace injuries due to bad winter weather, resulting in at least one day of missed work. More concerning, more than a quarter of those spills resulted in employees requiring a month or more off work. To put a price tag on this, estimates from one workers comp group suggests that the average cost of these weather-related falls clocks in at more than $40,000, not to mention all the hassle of lost productivity, shifting projects to other workers, and even hiring replacement workers as needed.

Since prevention is the best cure, let’s first focus on our five top tips for preventing weather-related injuries:

1.       Have a winter weather plan: Before the end of fall, you should have already secured a winter weather plan, including figuring out who is responsible for snow removal – including how much snow must fall for this plan to be activated, what areas will be cleared, and what the contractor will do to otherwise make it safe for employees to come to work.

2.       Know your landscape: Ahead of any bad weather, survey the entrance to your office, the walkways, and the parking lots for any hazards that could become particularly treacherous with winter weather. Speak to your property manager about having potholes filled, fixing wobbly or missing railings, and installing or upgrading lighting so folks can find their way when coming and going from the office.

3.       Take action on the inside: Keeping the weather at bay on the outside is important, but you can’t forget about weatherproofing your indoor area. Ahead of bad weather, use safety mats at areas where snow can be tracked in, add wet floor signs near areas where surfaces can be slick, and even consider rolling out a fan to help surfaces dry more quickly. You could also go the extra mile and make a station near the door for employees to change out of winter boots, so they don’t track wet shoes through the office.

4.       Review your records: Did you have a spot either outside or inside that was responsible for one or more winter related falls last year? If so, review what can be done differently in this upcoming winter season to make it safer moving forward.

5.       Educate your employees: Perhaps the biggest way to prevent falls is to remind employees about how ambulate in icy conditions. The easiest and most effective method is to tell them to walk like penguins! While a little grade school in nature, the advice is sound: teach your workers to take small, shuffling steps, placing their whole foot on the ground and maintaining contact throughout their stride. Further, they should use good body mechanics when walking, keeping their hands free and available to help break a fall if needed and using caution when navigating curbs, steps, and other changes in terrain.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, an employee may still take a tumble. Below, we outline what should happen next:

1.       Approach the employee and assess the nature of the injury. Slips on ice present multiple opportunities for injuries. With a head injury, a good rule of thumb is that if someone loses consciousness, is over age 65, or is taking a blood thinner, they should go to the emergency room to be cleared by medical professionals. Similarly, if you fall flat on your back, buttocks, or hip, it is best to get checked out by a doctor to rule out a compression fracture. Similarly, hard falls on limbs should be assessed by a professional if there is concern for a break or fracture (common symptoms are tenderness, pain, and decreased range of motion).

2.       Next, you’ll want to consult your employee manual to identify the protocol for transporting the individual to receive medical care and work with the employee (or their peers) to identify their emergency contact.

3.       Next, you should begin taking steps to see whether this fall is eligible for workers compensation. State laws vary significantly in terms of what types of incidents are covered and the geographical location for where these complaints can originate, so you’ll want to review your policy and take steps accordingly (if you are an Abel member, for example, you would call us immediately and we would take over the process for you in terms of conducting an investigation, filing the appropriate paperwork, and getting the ball rolling on benefits for said employee.)

4.       Determine whether you need to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They will absolutely need to be notified in the case of a serious injury (think death or amputation) but can also be notified for less severe injuries that require an overnight hospital visit. 5.       Finally, keep communication channels open with said worker so that you can both be apprised of how they are doing and their expected return to work. Further, you’ll want to be in contact with their medical team to begin understanding what, if any, injuries the person may have upon their return to work and what you will need to do to best accommodate them under the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For further advice and information on pre or post work injuries, please call us at 800-400-1968 or email us at info@abelhr.com.

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