Contributed by The Law Offices of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC
It’s no secret that winter presents challenges when it comes to outdoor safety. But did you know some experts estimate that nearly 80 percent of all slips, trips and falls – each hazardous to a worker’s health – are linked to snow and ice on walking surfaces?
Overall, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that slips, trips and falls comprise a majority of general industry accidents. Common injuries include sprains, strains, bruises, contusions, fractures, abrasions and lacerations to knees, ankles, feet, wrists, elbows, back, shoulders, hips and head. Slips, trips and falls also make up 15 percent of all accidental deaths, second only to motor vehicle accidents, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
It is the responsibility of an employer to provide safe working conditions year-round, with a special emphasis on winter. A conscientious employer will be prepared for wintry conditions on their work sites. They will have procedures in place to safeguard the health of their outdoor workers. These range from providing snow removal to having winter supplies – snow blowers, shovels, ice melt, rock salt and sand – on hand to guarantee outdoor worker safety.
Employer negligence contributes to injury risks
Unfortunately, not all employers are diligent about protecting the health of their employees who work outdoors. They may not provide proper training, equipment or safe working conditions. They may claim that winter conditions are an “act of God” and out of their control, even though FEMA and OSHA report most slip, trip and fall accidents can be prevented. These employers either do not understand or do not care that these views are short-sighted. Worker accidents can be costly to an employer in terms of loss of productivity and business, increased industrial insurance premiums and the costs associated with training replacement workers.
To the individual outdoor worker, the costs are more apparent. They suffer lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, pain, temporary or permanent disability, reduced quality of life and depression as a result of their circumstances. In the most tragic cases, when a death occurs, their family and other loved ones suffer immeasurable loss. While dealing with the emotional and mental shock of the heartbreak, they also are being called on to make decisions that will have a great impact on their future.
In the wake of every slip, trip and fall accident, the irresponsible employer and its insurance company may apply pressure to reduce the benefits owed to the outdoor worker. Fortunately, the victims of such accidents have a reliable and friendly alternative.