Winter weather brings a special set of safety hazards. Ice, snow and sleet may contribute to seasonal premises (occupiers’) liability accidents, such as slip and falls and trip and falls.
Property owners and occupiers should take special care during these months to reduce the likelihood of accidents on their premises. Similarly, Ontario residents should practice caution when out and about during inclement weather.
Below are eight ways to avoid premises liability accidents during the winter:
1. Avoid distracting behaviors while walking – Situational awareness can do much to reduce the odds of injury in a slip/trip and fall accident. Do not send or read text messages, check email, play games on a smart phone, or otherwise look away from the walking surface and your destination. Instead, focus on the surrounding environment, watching for factors like ice accumulation on unsalted steps or snow buildup in an un-shoveled parking lot.
2. Dress for the weather – It is easier to lose your balance when you stuff your hands in pockets to protect them from the cold. Wear warm gloves or mittens and other weather-protective gear. Just be certain all hats and scarves allow for a clear field of vision.
3. Wear winter-ready shoes – Avoid wearing shoes with leather or plastic soles. Instead, opt for boots or shoes with non-skid soles or sufficient traction. High heels are particularly dangerous in less-than-optimal weather conditions.
4. Don’t overburden yourself – Carrying a heavy bag or an armload of packages can compromise your sense of balance. Try to leave hands and arms free to aid with balance as you navigate slippery surfaces, such as icy walkways and wet floors.
5. Use caution when entering or exiting a building – Always remove snow or ice accumulation from your shoes upon entering a building. Likewise, be especially cautious near entrances and exits because snow and ice from other people’s shoes can melt and cause slip and fall hazards.
6. Exit vehicles slowly – Exercise caution when exiting a vehicle in public or private parking lots — ice may not be visible. Use the car door for support when stepping out of the vehicle.
7. Slow down and plan ahead – Make an effort to allow yourself extra time to get to appointments during the winter months. Rushing from a car to a building or vice versa can make you more vulnerable to hazards such as ice, snow or other obstacles.
8. Be cautious in new surroundings – The winter months can bring holiday parties in unfamiliar settings, such as coworker’s homes, hotel ballrooms and banquet halls. It is important not to let down your guard in festive surroundings. Have fun, but be aware of potential hazards such as an unsecured rug, wet tiles or icy stairs.
If you would like to learn more about premises liability and injury cases that might emanate from these accidents, see our other articles on the subject like this one about duty of care in these cases. If you need legal help, call 1-800-JUSTICE® to schedule a free case evaluation with the Preszler Law Firm.