While snowy conditions are inevitable here in Michiana, wintertime falls are not. Much can be done by store and mall operators and businesses to protect their customers and visitors from falling on sidewalks and driveways. You may not realize the proactive steps that a business owner can take to protect its customers and visitors. This is especially important with busy stores and businesses that can have hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors on a daily basis.

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Detailed Weather Information

There are specialized weather apps and websites to help businesses and snow removal contractors to know what’s coming and to schedule and prepare the best methods to respond to a snow or ice event. Particular information involving the dew point and ground temperatures can help forecast when surfaces are more likely to experience ice buildups. Information on winds can be used to identify where snow drifting can be expected. Of course, forecasts can help in scheduling when snow and ice removal efforts should begin, including some more proactive measures, such as pretreating, discussed below.

Salt and Deicing Products

Ordinary melting salt, sodium chloride, is typically the cheapest product to apply to walkways and driveways, but it loses its melting capabilities as temperatures fall, and at 10 degrees Fahrenheit and below, it provides practically no help with melting ice. There are, however, other deicing products that can be purchased to apply to walks and driveways when the temperatures become particularly cold. A business should maintain these different deicing products to ensure that icy surfaces can be properly treated. Other measures can also be taken, including throwing sand on walking surfaces to provide an abrasive layer to retard slipping, and even more aggressive measures such as applying a brine mixture to a walking surface. Where a store or business has thousands of visitors, it is important that it undertake these more sophisticated ice treatment methods to help ensure customer and visitor safety.

Pretreat Walkways

An effective measure to be undertaken by stores, malls and other businesses is to pretreat their sidewalks and driveway areas before a storm arrives. Pretreating involves applying an appropriate deicing agent to the walking surfaces before a snowfall. By doing so, the deicing agent can prevent the formation of an ice layer on the walking surface. This is effective because it stops the slipping problem before it’s had a chance to take hold, as it can be more difficult to melt an established layer of ice as compared to stopping it before it can form.

Identify High Traffic Areas

Businesses with multiple entrances should do traffic count studies to identify those entrances that have the highest number of customers. Traffic studies can also be done outside of a building to see where customers or passersby walk most often in a driveway or sidewalk area or other pathways. These high-traffic areas should be prioritized for snow and ice removal efforts in light of the greater risk of falls occurring where more people are walking. Schedules should be established for the initial clearing of snow and ice and then follow-up checks to ensure the entrances continue to be cleared of snow and ice throughout the day.

Evaluate Buildings and Grounds

An owner of a store, mall or other business should inspect and evaluate its buildings and walking areas when a precipitation event occurs. Buildings and other structures should be examined to determine where areas of dripping water are located or other potential ice formation conditions exist. Steps could be taken to eliminate such dripping water in similar ice-forming hazards. Beyond that, walkways and driveways should be examined for where water flows occur and to then identify those areas and make them a priority for snow and ice removal efforts. Such water/ice risk areas should be identified by a map or diagram and shared with the maintenance staff so that these higher risk areas are known and made priorities for snow and ice treatment.

Hire a Professional

Some businesses will have their own employees and staff be responsible for snow and ice removal efforts. That can sometimes be a challenge when employees are pulled in other directions by other job responsibilities. Often, taking care of a customer in a store or a patient in an office takes priority to checking on the outside sidewalks and driveway area and then taking steps to clear them of snow and ice. By hiring a professional snow and ice removal contractor, that responsibility can be taken off the shoulders of the business owners and employees. A competent snow and ice removal contractor should have an adequate number of employees and necessary equipment, technology and procedures to, perhaps, more effectively clear walkways and driveways of snow and ice conditions. A written contract can be entered into specifying the responsibilities of the snow and ice removal contractor to ensure that the best practices and methods are being undertaken to keep the business property as safe as possible for customers, patients, employees, and other visitors.

Wintertime Falls are not Inevitable

The perception that wintertime falls are inevitable is simply not true. Business and property owners can use the proper equipment, the proper deicing products, and utilize the best methods and procedures to not only clear snow and ice, but to take steps to ensure that ice layers do not have a chance to form in the first place. Unfortunately, these safe practices aren’t always practiced, and people suffer falls and are injured when such could have been avoided.

Should that occur to you or to one of your friends or family members, be sure to contact Foley & Small. The attorneys and staff of Foley & Small have handled many wintertime fall cases. They know the questions to ask and the documents to request, and if appropriate, they’ll hire expert witnesses to speak about reasonable and safe snow and ice maintenance practices that should be undertaken to keep the customers, patients, and other visitors of a business safe from what can be devastating falls. Indeed, such falls can result in fractures, disc herniations, head injuries, and other complications that can have significant and, tragically, sometimes severe and even fatal consequences. Again, if you or a family member are injured in a wintertime fall, be sure to call Foley & Small at 800-276-2525.

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