Unfortunately, it’s a particularly cold winter for Ohioans this year. With the cold comes snow, ice, and…slips and falls. Every year a significant number of employee weather-related slip-and-fall injuries occur in parking lots and other exterior areas. Many large businesses have at least one employee sustain a serious injury as the result of a fall in a parking lot or other exterior area each year.

Injuries occurring in parking lots and other exterior areas are, in many instances, compensable under Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Law. Compensability is largely determined on whether the parking lot is controlled by the employer. Even an employee that sustains a slip-and-fall injury “off the clock” may still be compensable if the parking lot or exterior area is owned and/or controlled by the employer.

The situation becomes even more complicated when an employee sustains an injury in a parking lot or exterior area not owned or controlled by the employer. In those instances, the courts traditionally look to whether the employer directed where or how the employee should park his or her vehicle and whether the employee was engaged in an activity consistent with the contract of hire.

So, how can you identify and reduce weather-related parking lot injuries at your place of employment?

It is important to keep parking lots and exterior areas under the employer’s control well-lit and in good condition year-round, but maintenance during inclement weather is especially important. Whether your company contracts internally or externally for snow and ice removal, make sure the responsibilities are clearly defined. If this responsibility is maintained internally, be sure to provide the proper equipment including: salt or ice-melting chemicals, shovels, snow blowers, and/or other snow removing vehicles. Also, instruct your employees on the use of proper outerwear and footwear during the snow removal process. If your company contracts with another company for the removal of snow and ice, clearly define the timing and frequency of removal and discuss how extraordinary circumstances will be handled.

While these types of workplace accidents may not be completely avoidable, identifying hazards will reduce injuries and ultimately affect your company’s bottom line positively.