Did boss do all she could to prevent his slip on ice?

by on December 8, 2010 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Winter creates many additional hazards in the workplace. Slipping and falling on ice or snow is a big one.

“What happened to Doug Glasco?” Safety Director Hayden Schmidt asked supervisor Georgia McAleer. “I saw paramedics stretchering him to an ambulance.”

“He fell down in the yard while trying to hitch a trailer to his truck,” Georgia said. “He must have slipped on a patch of ice.”

“Did you hear how badly he was hurt?” Hayden asked.

“They were saying something about a fractured skull,” Georgia said. “Apparently, he fell flat on the back of his head.”

“Doggone it,” Hayden said. “That’s tough.”

“But there shouldn’t have been ice in the truck yard,” he said. “Our snowplowing and de-icing contractor was supposed to have taken care of that. Didn’t they come early this morning?”

“They came, all right,” Georgia said. “I don’t know why there was still ice in the yard, but obviously there was.”

did anybody check?
“And nobody checked to make sure the plowing company had actually cleared the yard completely?” Hayden asked.

“Nope,” Georgia said. “We don’t inspect their work. Nobody ever told me we had to.”

“Well, I’m going to look into what the contractor did or didn’t do,” Hayden said. “Doug is obviously going to miss some work, and it’ll be a workers comp accident for sure.”

Doug eventually sued the plowing contractor for negligence.

Did he win?

Yes, an appeals court said Doug had a case strong enough to be tried in front of a jury.

Testimony before the court indicated that the contractor’s work was lacking in at least two respects:

  • Rock salt alone was used to de-ice the truck yard, whereas a mix of salt and sand would have been better. If sand is included in the de-icing mix, an expert witness said, surfaces won’t turn slick when they refreeze.
  • The contractor plowed over a number of shallow holes in the yard, leaving snow in the depressions that could refreeze into dangerous ice.

A jury might well conclude from these points that the contractor had been negligent, the court said.

Because winter weather increases the risk of slip-and-fall accidents, supervisors should make sure they know what arrangements have been made to clear walkways, parking lots, platforms and other areas where employees may be passing or working. And as this case shows, you should also check that snow and ice clearance has actually been done – and done thoroughly.

As far as de-icing material is concerned, safety experts note that calcium chloride works better than rock salt (sodium chloride). Calcium chloride is effective at lower temperatures and resists refreezing better than salt.

Note: Potassium- or magnesium-based de-icers, also available, are less harmful to surfaces and vegetation than rock salt or calcium chloride. Also: Those who work outside should be outfitted with non-skid footwear in the winter months.

Cite: Gonzalez v. HMD Lawn Service & Plowing, No. A-0288-09T3, N.J. App., 9/23/10.

Click to View Comments

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.