Volume 13, Number 8 December 2, 2005

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FMD launches attack on winter slips & falls

Wintery sidewalks will get special attention this year.

Wintery sidewalks will get special attention this year.

The U of S is launching an attack on winter this year to reduce ice on walkways and cut the number of slips, falls and injuries.

University figures show that every winter dozens of people slip on icy campus sidewalks despite the valiant efforts of outside workers to keep walkways clear.

Facilities Management Division (FMD) officials say this year the Division is redirecting some resources, buying and retrofitting equipment, shifting staff hours, and using a new chemical to keep sidewalks as clear as possible on cold, snowy days.

FMD Support Services Director Stu Dawson says Grounds Manager Murray Zook and his crew have done a good job on walkways in past winters, but the Division wants to do more to address this concern – especially since the University is one of 10 large employers required by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) to take steps to cut injury rates by 20 per cent within four years.

Dawson says FMD is directing $53,400 to the slips and falls initiative, which will help with the purchase of two walk-behind snow sweepers, an ice-breaking attachment and a broom for the front of an FMD bobcat, a cab and broom for a mower, retrofitting a liquid-carrying tank onto a “gator” 6x4 vehicle, and three new two-way radios “that will allow us to move folks more rapidly to critical areas when we hear there is an issue”.

Two key parts of the new initiative, say Dawson and Zook, are a new early shift for snow-removal workers and use of a new de-icing chemical.

Zook says FMD conducted a trial use of the chemical last year on the Education Building ramp. The new environmentally friendly anti-ice solution seemed to work well, and he says other institutions are also starting to use it. It is applied before a snowfall, melting the snow and preventing ice build-up. FMD now has a 6,500-litre storage tank for the liquid on campus.

Zook adds the other prong in this attack on icy sidewalks is a new schedule that will have FMD snow-removal workers on the job at 4:30 a.m. after a snowfall. The goal is to have priority areas like disabled parking spots cleared by 7:00 a.m.

Another move being considered is having barrels of sand near steps or patches of sidewalk where ice build-up is a particular problem, so anyone could sprinkle sand when they notice a hazardous situation.

Dawson notes that over the years Zook and his crew have identified key areas where sidewalks get icy and the risk for slips and falls is high. They will be attacking those spots – including the Education and Veterinary Medicine ramps, the Biology sidewalk to Science Place, the Administration walkways, the Arts-Commerce sidewalk, the Main Library entrances, and the walk from Marquis Hall down to the Bowl – early on snowy mornings.

“The goal is to get the snow moved before it’s packed,” Dawson says.

He adds the FMD staff take great pride in the appearance and safety of the campus grounds. And despite budget cuts in 2004, 2005 and 2006, Dawson says the Division is putting a priority on this winter initiative.

Fulton Briand, Occupational Safety Manger with the University’s Department of Health, Safety and Environment (DHSE), says in the 2004-05 year there were 31 WCB claims filed for slips and falls at the University. Dawson says in the same year FMD received 56 notices from people about slippery sidewalks. He says slips and falls on campus occur five times more often in winter than in summer.

Briand says individuals have to assume some responsibility for their own safety during winter conditions. He suggests people select footwear, such as rubber soles, known to be less slippery in icy conditions. For those interested, strap-on non-slip shoe treads are available in stores.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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