For the majority of the winter season here in Maine, workers and residents must contend with a potentially hazardous mix of ice and snow.
While some might consider a slip on the ice or a fall in the snow just one of those inevitable cold-weather nuisances – perhaps even a comical one – there is also a high potential for such an incident to result in a serious injury. The result is sometimes that victims are forced to take leave of their job and suffer serious medical complications, including broken bones and joints, as well as back and head injuries. Filing aspremises liability claim may best protect your rights in the wake of serious injury.
A recent report by the Maine Department of Labor Standards took pains in detailing just how widespread the problem is, and how much it costs us all each year.
Since the early 1970s, Maine Workers’ Compensation Board has logged some 14,000 injury cases resulting from ice and snow slip-and-falls. Collectively, this amounts to millions of lost work days.
The latest report from the board focuses on ice and snow-slip-and-falls from January 2012 through June 2013. Throughout this 18-month time frame, there were more than 1,035 employees in Maine who submitted claims of injury due to a slip or fall in winter weather. This accounts for 5 percent of all claims for lost work time and nearly one-third of all claims for slips, trips and falls.
Put a different way, workers in Maine sustained fall injuries on ice and snow at a rate of six times what they suffered from those involving ladders, buildings or other structures. Workers were also four times more likely to suffer a snow or ice fall than a fall from a trailer or other vehicle.
In terms of economic impact, this has meant a total of 25,000 lost work days just since the beginning of 2011 in Maine. In the aggregate, that has resulted in $1.5 million in annual medical expenses and another $2.3 million in annual costs to workers, employers and insurers.
In terms of who is most likely to suffer these kinds of injuries, it should come as little surprise that those in the transportation and material moving trades rank No. 1, as these workers primarily toil outside. However, when we look at all other occupations, we find that there’s a fairly even distribution of snow and ice injuries. Interestingly, those in office and administrative support ranked No. 2 in terms of the highest number of ice and snow-related slips and falls, which highlights the fact that we are all vulnerable to this type of injury. The majority of these occur between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Most of these incidents happen in parking lots, driveways and walkways. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, as these are areas where people are most likely to travel on foot in between their work sites and vehicles. However, roughly 8 percent happen indoors, mostly in hallways and entryways where ice and snow has been tracked in from outside.
As a result of these incidents, workers suffer a range of effects, from minor bruising and cuts to serious bone fractures, concussions and spinal cord damages. The largest percentage of injuries involve strains, sprains and tears.
Despite the heavy personal and economic toll these types of injuries have in Maine, the Workers’ Compensation Board notes there is no systematic approach (beyond the U. . Occupational Health & Safety’s General Duty Clause) to limit these kinds of accidents. There may unfortunately be a tendency to see them as inevitable. It tends not to be seen as a “workplace problem,” even though so many incidents do occur while the victim is working.
But make no mistake: It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe. They can’t control whether snow or ice exists, but they do have a duty to protect workers from suffering injury as a result of it while on the job.
If you’ve suffered a fall or work accident, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.
Slipping and Falling on Ice – A Serious Workplace Hazard, Injuries to Maine Workers, 2012-2013, Maine Department of Labor Standards
More Blog Entries:
Work Accidents in Maine Likely with Employer Disregard for Employee Safety, July 24, 2013, Bangor Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog