When winter comes to Chicago, the seasonal change brings injury risks along with the holiday festivities. Some of winter’s hazards are obvious. For example, most Chicago drivers know how to navigate snowy and icy roads, and commuters who take public transportation know to protect their skin from freezing winds. However, other risks are caused by businesses and property owners that don’t comply with local safety laws.
The City of Chicago holds local property owners responsible for keeping the streets safe, and the City itself is responsible for winter safety precautions on public streets and city-owned properties. Each winter, public and private properties face municipal fines and personal injury claims because of slip and fall injuries on their property. Individuals may take steps to prevent common injuries, but it’s also important to demand safe pathways from local businesses.
Snow Removal Laws in Chicago
Ice often hides under layers of snow on slick city sidewalks. High-traction footwear and cautious, slow steps are helpful in preventing bad slips and falls. However, businesses and residents have a legal obligation to keep sidewalks clear. When someone slips on a sidewalk that wasn’t cleared, responsible parties may be fined by the city or sued by a Chicago personal injury attorney. When a business fails to comply with this safety rule, they must pay up to $1,000 per day. The fine for individuals is only $50, and in many cases they also face legal liability for personal injury.
The Municipal Code of Chicago protects residents and visitors from dangerous winter sidewalks. It states that the path in front of a building must be cleared by its homeowner, business owner, tenant or occupant. This path must be five feet wide to allow wheelchairs and strollers to pass, and it must be cleared within four hours after it stops falling. If snow falls at night or on a Sunday, the rule changes to 10 AM the following day.
Avoiding Workplace Hazards
Snow, ice and freezing temperatures are risks for many employees too. In fact, during the winter of 2013 and 2014, almost a third of the state’s worker compensation claims were caused by winter-related falls. Workplace safety laws require proper salting, protective outerwear (including slip-proof outerwear) and safe business practices.
Scarves and hats may interfere with vision on slippery surfaces. Workers also shouldn’t carry objects while navigating snowy or icy paths. It’s important to keep the arms free for stability, and to hear and see as clearly as possible.