Preventing Slips and Falls During Icy Conditions

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Program Coordinator

When the temperature drops, ice can become a severe problem on the farm.  Water troughs ice over, barn doors freeze shut, and ice glazes over travel paths or equipment stored outside.  Icy conditions can cause severe slip / fall injuries because an individual slides abruptly causing a loss of balance and impacting the surface below. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, there were 34,860 workplace slip-and-fall injuries involving ice, sleet or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate. This does not include thousands more winter slip-and-fall related injuries that were minor and did not result in lost work time. Here are some simple guidelines to reduce the risk of a slip / fall injury from icy conditions:

- Use the proper footwear that can provide some slip resistance and traction.

- Take short steps or shuffle, and try to ensure your torso stays balanced over your feet.

- Keep your hands out of your pockets. You can help break your fall with your hands free if you do start to slip and by placing your arms out to your side can help to maintain your balance.

- Utilize handrails and grab bars, or follow a fence line in an effort to maintain your stability by holding on to a solid object.

- If applying salt to travel paths is not an option, apply sand, gravel, kitty liter, floor dry or some abrasive substance to provide a texture for traction.

- Use grassy areas as a secondary travel path.  This will provide a course texture to increase traction while walking.

- Take extra precaution around livestock watering areas. Ice can form in theses areas by water being splashed or dripped around the perimeter of the tank.

- Minimize distractions to remain alert to icy hazards and avoid carrying bulky items that block your view

- When transitioning from the bright outdoor environment to indoor areas, stop briefly to allow your vision to catch up with the change in lighting, in order to recognize hazards ahead.

- Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles or equipment; use the vehicle for support.

- Use 3 points of contact when mounting or dismounting large equipment (1 hand / 2 feet) or (2 hands / 1 foot). Ensure there is solid footing on the ground before final dismounting.

For more information, please contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.