STRUCTURES: PORCHES & DECKS
Porches and porch stairs can be slip-and-fall hazards because of their exposure to all of the weather elements. Rain, dew, snow and ice, or even the first frost can make the porch landing and porch steps very slippery. If your porch is in the shade, not only is the sun blocked from melting a morning frost or dew, but also the damp, sunless environment can create the perfect conditions for moss, mildew and even mold to grow. These natural organisms can make for treacherous footing.
Often porches are painted, and that can make them prone to slips and falls. While paint enhances the appearance of concrete or wood, the smooth painted surface can hold pooling water or ice.
Natural and synthetic wood decks present slip-and-fall conditions in much the same way as porches. Constant exposure to inclement weather creates the wet conditions where slips and falls can occur. Sometimes the wood deck planks begin to cup, forming a shallow “bowl” that tends to hold water, ice and snow. A quick freeze and you’ve got an ice tray.
As with any slip, trip or fall hazard, there are ways to help prevent accidents and to mitigate the conditions that can lead to a fall.
PREVENTIONPaying attention to both your surroundings and the conditions on your porch or deck is the first step to reducing the chances of a slip, trip or fall. The following common-sense steps can help to keep you safe.
- Wear Appropriate Footwear Wearing flip-flops might seem a rite of summer, but they’re easy to catch between the wood slats on a deck, sending you for a spill. Similarly, high heels might look great at a fancy restaurant, but maybe start with a pair of flats to make it easier to navigate your way down a long set of snowy stairs from your porch.
- Be Careful When Carrying Items Carrying a pet, bags of groceries or the trash increases the chances of your losing your balance when walking on a slippery deck or front porch. It’s a natural reaction to try and grab something that’s falling from your hands and in doing so the chances of you losing your balance increases. Likewise, a squirming young pup being carried outside to do their duty can pull both your attention and balance away, creating a fall that might otherwise be avoided.
- Keep Porch or Deck Clean: If you’ve got children in the home, don’t let them leave their bats, gloves, skateboards or anything else lying on the porch or deck. Keep the space free from clutter and obstacles that might cause you to trip or perhaps twist and ankle.
- Improve Traction in High Risk Areas: If your porch is especially slippery just in front of the first step, or you seem to lose a bit of traction when stepping from your house onto your backyard deck, you can install devices, like aluminum Handi-Treads, at those areas where traction is needed most.
- Place Lights On and Around Porches and Decks: Adding outdoor lighting is one of the best ways to help reduce nighttime slips and falls on your deck or patio. There are a variety of decorative lights, lanterns, post cap lights and step lights that will look beautiful and help keep you and your family safe.
- Clean and Seal Wood Patios & Decks: In areas where there’s not much sun, algae and mold can make a wood porch, patio or deck slippery. Using an appropriate sealant, stain or paint can minimize the chance of algae or mold growing and causing slippery conditions.
- Keep the Porch or Deck Free of Snow: If you live in an area were frost and snow are common during the winter months, sweep or shovel the snow off the structures before you compact the snow into ice by repeatedly walking on it. Use de-icing salt, sand or kitty litter to help remove the stubborn layer of ice that may have accumulated.