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Preventing Slips and Trips in Snow Country

You might think you can relax or “reset” yourself for the new year now that the holidays are behind us. Unfortunately for folks in the northern part of the country, the opposite is true. Now more than ever it is time to focus on injury prevention, specifically those caused by slips and trips.

Each day thousands of construction workers battle the elements, particularly snow and ice, while making a living at their work location. Their job scope may be the same year round, but one thing is for sure: the potential hazards are constantly changing. Those of us who live and work in “snow country” – those areas prone to snow/ice conditions – know that weather conditions can change instantly and without warning.

Working safely in these conditions requires focus from all involved: pre-planning, proper tools and, most importantly, a strong commitment to working safely each and every day. A main focus for working safely in snow country is the prevention of slips and trips caused by snow- and ice-covered surfaces. Slips and trips are one of the leading causes for injuries year round; however, in winter, this potential hazard seems to increase.

In theory, the solution for preventing slips caused by snow and ice is simple – remove the snow and ice! However, realistically we know this can be difficult to manage at the work location. Many seemingly simple options exist, which include but are not limited to:

• Salt or other ice-melting applications can be applied to a variety of surfaces to help prevent and remove the buildup of snow and ice

• Sand or other fine aggregate can be applied to working/walking surfaces as added traction/friction for employees, vehicles, and mobile equipment alike

• Temporary Heated Structures built to cover and surround common walking and working areas to avoid snow accumulation and hinder the formation of ice

• Heated and/or Ground Thawing Blankets can be used to melt ice and snow prior to the commencement of work activities in specific areas

• Traction Aids specifically designed to easily attach to a work boot/shoe can be purchased and worn by employees

Determining the best solution or preventative measure can only be decided by those working and by conducting a thorough Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) at your specific work location. Generally, each option provides the ability to prevent slips while working on snow- and ice-covered surfaces, however, conducting a thorough JHA may allow your team to better identify each area of potential hazard and also the best management practice for preventing incidents or injuries. Once identified, a mitigation plan and correction actions should be proactively (prior to the commencement of work) implemented to address each hazard.

Regardless of the preventative method chosen, as always, the focus should be place on mitigating hazards and keeping safety a priority in each and every facet of work performed.

Lead Safely. Others will Follow!

  • Nate Healy

  • Nate Healy is an HSE Senior Manager at Michels. Nate has 15 years of experience in safety, including several years in the field at job sites from coast to coast.

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