Winter means that you are either really excited because you happen to be a winter sports enthusiast (most people who love the winter also ski, snowshoe, play hockey and can’t get enough of the cold weather) or you are dreading what’s yet to come.
Whether or not you like, or dislike the winter weather doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that you stay safe for when the sidewalks, walk ways, stairs and entrances get wet, slushy, icy and slippery.
Around this time of year, our lawyers see an increase in client calls relating to slip and fall cases dealing with icy or slippery surfaces.
There is a very good reason for this aside from the obvious that it’s cold, snowy and can be icy outside. The reality is that the first winter storm or frost can catch us off guard. We aren’t quite ready for it. All of our “snow stuff“, such as winter boots, winter coats, hats and gloves were all packed away at the end of last winter, and have yet to be unpacked for the upcoming cold weather season.
In some cases, we need to winter boots because the old ones don’t fit us anymore, or are simply worn out. This is the reality of life (especially with children who don’t seem to stop growing!).
It’s important to be ready and prepare for the winter season. We should not be going out on walks wearing running shoes, sandals or crocs when there’s a negative temperature with snow and ice on the ground. This is a recipe for injury and a recipe for disaster. No insurer, Judge or Jury will look favourably upon an injured Plaintiff who was walking around in the snow and ice wearing sandals or crocs in Canada in the wintertime. It’s just not smart.
Here are a few tips on what you can do to make to make slip and fall season, that much safer:
1.Winter Boots Work! Think of winter boots as snow tires for your car. Insurance companies now offer premium discounts for motorists who get winter tires. That should tell you something. If they didn’t work to help reduce the likelihood of accidents on cars, insurers would not offer these sort of discounts. Winter boots work the same way. Even if you have a slip and fall while wearing a winter boot, the likelihood of that fall being a “bad one“, will be reduced because of the proper footwear which you are wearing. And if you are wearing winter boots, it means that you aren’t wearing crocs, sandals or running shoes not meant for the winter on a slippery, snowy and icy surface. It’s just a good idea. It’s also an excuse to get some new footwear if you’re in to that sort of thing. And if money is an issue, discount retailers carry a wide array of winter boots at affordable prices. Think of buying winter boots as a sort of right of passage to living in Canada. It’s something that you need to do. It will make surviving the winter a whole late warmer, more comfortable, more tolerable, and much safer.
2. Salt, Sand and Salt Some More! If you’re a home owner, a renter or a landlord, you need to take care of your property and the places which people walk, or are going to be walking. For the winter, this means applying salt, sand and some more salt to make the surface easier to navigate. Pro Tip: Buying sand and salt early on in the season will make sure that you have it on hand for when you need it most. It will also be handy for when there are rushes on sand and salt after a harsh winter storm so you either don’t have to wait in long lines; or risk disappointment that your local store has run out of sand and salt causing you to drive across town looking for the only stores that have some left. We can all recall the days after severe storms where it seemed like very store had run out of sand and salt; leaving countless walkways as icy as your local skating rink.
3. Proper Lighting is Always a Good idea. Walking on ice and slush is hard. Trying to walk on ice and slush when it’s dark outside and the path isn’t properly lit is even harder. You would be amazed by the amount of clients who were of the opinion that had the place they were walking upon been better lit that they believe that their fall would not have happened; or would not have happened to the same extent. Lighting often becomes an issue in slip and fall and trip and fall cases. If you are a property owner, it’s important to make sure that your premises are safe for your tenants, residents and invitees to the property. Part of this equation includes that the common areas and walkways are properly lit so that people can see where they are stepping, and so that they can avoid or understand that the surface upon which they are stepping might not be as stable as they suspect. Having the area properly lit is always a good idea. As an added bonus, proper lighting makes the property look nicer at night, and can act as a deterrent to thieves. So not only does the property become safer, it’s also nicer, and bad guys may also stay away. It’s a win-win-win.
4. Slow down. It’s not a race. One of the main reasons that accidents happen is because people aren’t paying attention to where they are going, or what they are stepping on. All of their actions are rushed. It’s important for people to slow down, and pay extra attention to where they are stepping in the winter time. This can be increasingly difficult because many people get distracted by their smartphones. Instead of paying attention to the physical world, they are more focused on paying attention to the digital world. This is not a good habit when you are out and about in the physical world.