Prevent Slip-and-Fall Accidents at Church

Snow and ice make falls more likely during winter

Wet floors and slippery sidewalks are among the leading reasons people slip and fall. Such falls are especially hazardous to people over age 65, whose bones are more likely to fracture during a fall. Snow, rain, and ice compound the problem during winter.

You may believe slips are unavoidable, but there are preventive measures you can take. Here are some suggestions for reducing your church's risk of slips and falls:

Repair Sidewalks, Parking Lots

Uneven surfaces can cause people to trip, especially when hidden by snow. Look for cracks and small holes in your walkways, steps, and parking lot. Repair them to prevent water from penetrating and freezing, which will cause larger cracks in the future. Turn downspouts away from walkways to avoid water and ice accumulation.

Inspect Handrails, Steps

Make sure all steps have a securely fastened handrail and meet the standard building codes available from your county building department. Repair worn or damaged steps, and paint or mark the edges to differentiate the levels.

Make Floors Safe

  • Buy mats or rugs with non-skid backings and place them at all entrances to your church. Make sure they lie flat. Bunched up mats can create a new hazard.
  • Use non-slip coatings and waxes on floors to improve traction. Use floor sealers, waxes, and finishes that are approved by Underwriters Laboratories, a nonprofit testing and certification organization.
  • Dry floors quickly if they get wet.
  • Alert people to wet floors, using cones or signs.
  • Replace worn or frayed carpeting.

Organize Snow Removal

  • Create a snow-removal plan to keep all parking lots, walkways, and entrances free of ice and snow. Pay special attention to walkways on the north side of the church. Because areas may refreeze, volunteers should check walkways and parking lots well before each service begins and just before each service ends.
  • Document your snow-removal policy. It may help defend the church if someone sues after a fall.
  • Maintain adequate supplies of ice melt, sand, and snow removal equipment.
  • Organize volunteers to remove snow, help older people and people with disabilities into the church, and keep entrances dry.
  • Consider hiring a snow-removal service. Make sure the contractor is insured and has clear guidelines on what to do. For example, you may require him to plow whenever more than one inch of snow accumulates.

Supply Checklist

Keep the following supplies on hand in order to be prepared for spills and weather-related hazards:

  • Salt
  • Sand
  • Shovels
  • Snow blower
  • Snowplow
  • Warning cones
  • Floor mats
  • Non-slip floor cleaners