The Danger of Working on Slippery Ground
Construction workers, parking garage attendants, and public safety workers are prone to slips and falls. They often perform their duties regardless of weather or time of day. Adverse weather and variable lighting conditions increase the risk an individual within these professions will suffer a slip and fall accident.
Nationally, slip and falls are the leading cause of workplace-related injuries. It is estimated that they are responsible for up to 8 million visits to the emergency room every year. Up to 5% of all people who suffer a slip and fall accident will experience a serious fracture. The danger these fractures represent depends on the individual’s health and age. In most cases, permanent damage can be avoided with prompt and thorough treatment. It’s estimated that slip and fall accidents cause nearly 100 million lost workdays every year.
Construction workers have the greatest risk of suffering a fatal slip and fall accident. In 2014, 349 construction workers died in workplace falls. Many of these involved falls from heights which increase the likelihood that a fall will be fatal. Of all fatalities related to construction in 2014, 40% were because of slips and falls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 74 out of 10,000 construction workers experienced a slip and fall accident in 2014. Many of these were because of poor safety conditions and improper site maintenance.
While a seemingly safe profession, Chicago slip and fall lawyers are well aware that parking lot attendants face dangerous surfaces every day. Poor lighting, icing, and snow deposited by vehicles can make a parking garage a dangerous workplace. Roughly 9,000 people suffer slips and falls within parking garages every year. Many of these occur in winter: and many are suffered by parking garage attendants. In 2014, 50 out of every 10,000 parking lot attendants experienced significant slips and falls.
Firefighters and police must also contend with the risk of slipping and falling while on duty. Ice, snow, and hidden obstacles are ever present risks during the winter. For firefighters, ice accumulation from hose activity is a leading cause of slips and falls. Each year, it is estimated that 12 out of every 1,000 firefighters will experience a slip and fall accident. Across the nation in 2014, slips and falls placed 86 of every 10,000 firefighters on the injury list. Winter conditions were a contributing factor in many of these.
Police officers have to contend with winter weather, poor lighting, and the need to move quickly when pursuing suspects. It’s a dangerous combination. In 2009, Village of Vernon Hills Police Officer William Heelan slipped on ice as he was responding to an emergency call. His injuries aggravated his existing osteoarthritis. This made it impossible for him to continue working as a police officer. In 2014, 123 officers out of 10,000 experienced significant slips or falls that took them out of the line-of-duty.
The nature of these professions often requires direct exposure to winter weather conditions. The risk of slips and falls can be mitigated, but not eliminated by wearing proper footwear. One study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association in 2013 indicated that leather footwear had considerable risk reduction benefits. The study determined that firefighters wearing leather footwear (as opposed to rubber) reduced the risk of slipping and falling by a factor of four.
Personal injury liability for slips and falls can vary for these professions. If a parking lot attendant or construction worker falls at work, then the worker can seek recourse under the terms of premises liability. However, the “Fireman’s Rule” states that if a firefighter or police officer suffers a fall while putting a fire out, or pursuing a suspect, the property owner isn’t liable for injuries. In these instances, property owners are only required to maintain ordinary care of their property and owe no duty to these professionals.
For many professions, the risks of winter weather simply can’t be avoided. The nature of these professions often requires working long hours exposed to the elements. This means walking/running over ice, climbing stairs, and mounting snowbanks. These tasks and many others are the reasons for countless tumbles in the winter months.
Individuals who work outside in the winter should exercise caution and use the proper safety equipment. This means:
- Wear shoes with proper tread
- Use flashlights in low-light conditions
- Avoid walking on ice, snow, or through puddles
- Avoid inclines whenever possible
- Keep hands free to help break a potential fall
Finally, unless speed is necessary, Chicago slip and fall lawyers recommend workers slow down and watch their steps. Speed is a leading cause of workplace slips and falls throughout the year. By slowing down and planning each step, workers can reduce the possibility of having an accident.