Snowmageddon! How to avoid workers’ compensation claims from weather-related slips and falls
Snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, snowzilla…whatever you call it, it’s cold! And, with the cold comes snow, ice, and slips and falls. Every year there is a significant number of weather-related slip and fall injuries that occur among employees in parking lots and other exterior areas, and, in general, many large businesses have at least one serious injury per year as a result.
In many instances, injuries occurring in parking lots and other exterior areas are compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation law. Compensability is largely determined on whether the parking lot is controlled by the employer. Even when an employee is “off the clock,” the injury may still be compensable if the parking lot or exterior area is owned and/or controlled by the employer.
The situation becomes even more complicated when an employee sustains an injury in a parking lot or exterior area that is not owned or controlled by the employer. In these instances, the courts traditionally look to determine if the employer directed where or how the employee should park his or her vehicle and if the employee was engaged in an activity consistent with the contract of hire.
So, how can you identify and reduce weather-related parking lot injuries at your place of employment?
It is important to keep parking lots and exterior areas which are under the employer’s control well lit and in good condition all year-round, but maintenance during inclement weather is especially important. Whether your company contracts internally or externally for snow and ice removal, make sure the responsibilities are clearly defined.
- If this responsibility is maintained internally, make sure to provide the proper equipment, including salt or ice-melting chemicals, shovels, snow blowers and/or other snow removing vehicles. Also, instruct your employees on the use of proper outerwear and footwear during the snow removal process.
- If your company contracts with another company for the removal of snow and ice, clearly define the timing and frequency of removal and discuss how extraordinary circumstances will be handled.
While these types of workplace accidents may not be completely avoidable, identifying hazards will reduce injuries and positively affect your company’s bottom line.