Access ramp walking assistance (C) DanieL Friedman Snow & Ice Removal from Walking Surfaces
Approaches to reducing or removing snow & ice from ramps, stairs & walkways

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Snow & ice fall hazards on exterior stairs, ramps, walkways, & snow & ice removal methods: examples of methods fdor clearing snow and ice from exterior walking surfaces are given followed by research citations on snow & ice contribution to exterior falls on ramps, stairs & walkways.

This article series describes common causes of & cures for slippery walking surfaces on stairs and walkways. We include ramp, stair and walkway maintenance suggestions to reduce slip, trip and fall hazards due to water, algae, snow, ice, etc.

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How to Reduce Snow & Ice Slip & Fall Hazards on Ramps, Stairs & Walks

Ramp & ramp guardrails (C) Daniel Friedman 2013

Besides the obvious requirements for properly constructed ramps, guardrails, hand-railings, and stairways themselves, building owners & managers use a variety of methods to reduce the falling hazards from snow and ice on ramps, stairs, and walkways, including at least these:

  • Build a sheltering roof or enclosure over and around the walking surface
  • Design the walking surface to drain properly, minimizing water accumulation that in turn contributes to algae & ice formation. Proper drainage also reduces algae formation on these surfaces.
  • Provide more sunlight on the walking surface by removing shading trees or obstructions. Adding hours of sun will not eliminate snow, ice, or algae slip hazards but will reduce them and may make surface maintenance easier.
  • Remove accumulated snow and ice - by shoveling, sweeping, and use of snow and ice melt products such as
    • Ice melting salts or chemicals
    • Heated walking surfaces, provided by building a heating system into stairs, ramps or sidewalks - elaborated below.
    • Overhead heating lamps and lights projecting onto walking surfaces

Developments on construction of heated surfaces to melt snow & ice from outdoor walking surfaces include both built-in radiant heating systems in outdoor drives, walks, and stairs and electrically-heated mats or walkways that can be placed on stairs and walkways.

  • Built-in heated sidewalks & stairs: New York City (and possibly other) sidewalks have been reconstructed with built-in heating tubing (RADIANT HEAT) in front of some buildings - a feature claimed by marketers and owners as a selling feature at some office buildings and condominiums

Clear Path snow & ice melting system - 2014

Add-on heated walking surfaces: several companies listed below provide systems for add-on electrically heated mats or walking surfaces that can be place on outdoor stairs, ramps, or walkways likely to otherwise accumiulate slippery snow and ice.

  • Clear Path heated walkway surface add-on: In June 2014 we were contacted by seeking crowd-funding support for Clear Path, a company seeking funding for an insulated electrically-heated walking surface (illustration above) that claims to significantly reduce the electrical energy required to heat an outdoor surface to melt away snow and ice. Interested readers can see this link seeking product funding:

    Notice: is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information provided free to the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.

    Other companies offering products for heating walking surfaces & snow melting products used on ramps, stairs, walkways include

  • HeatTrak snow melting mats, US & CANADA HeatTrak LLC 3641 Clearview Parkway Doraville, GA 30340 Toll Free: (888) 586-4904
    Europe and Scandinavia Dia Proff Norge AS Tel: (+47) 67 06 73 30 Fax: (+47) 67 06 73 31 Dir: (+47) 45 00 00 00 Adresse: Kjeller vest 3, 2007 Kjeller post@diaproff. Email:, Website:, retrieved 6/23/2014, original source;
  • KeMF HeatFlake heated rubber doormats, KEMF, 2102 Victoria Avenue, Greenfield Park, Québec, Canada J4V 1M9 Main: 450-923-4812 Toll-free Canada: 1 866-923-4812 Toll-free USA: 1 855-468-0088 Fax: 450-923-8890, Website: retrieved 6/23/2014, original source:

Research Confirms that Snow & Ice on Exterior Ramps, Stairs, or Walks is a Serious Fall & Injury Hazard

Icy wooden stair treads (C) 2013 Daniel Friedman Paul Galow

Failure to keep exterior walking surfaces free of ice and snow is discussed extensively in literature on fall hazards in climates where freezing conditions occur. Some particularly helpful research citations on snow and ice slip trip and fall hazards are given just below.

At SNOW & ICE on WALKING SURFACES we include data on the slipperiness of ice and snow covered surfaces including the static coefficient of friction used to measure just how slippery such surfaces are.

You'll see that water on ice is extremely slippery as is "black ice" on surfaces.

Snow and ice may cause or contribute to very serious falls and falls that may be witnessed by more people - as the walker is outdoors - than indoor slips, trips and falls that may occur where the field of view for second-party observers is more limited.

Snow covered exterior stairway (C) Daniel Friedman

However, among these research citations, Strandberg et als. offers data making clear that claims of injury statistics related to falls in which snow and ice played a key role is smaller than that claimed by some of the de-icing industry product manufacturers.

Research on Slip & Fall Hazards Involving Ice or Snow

Most falls occur indoors while only about 13-15% of fall injuries cite snow and ice as a factor.

Sheldon (1960) found up to 50% of falls they studied involved ice and snow, and El Faizy notes further that snow and ice factors have been omitted on some surveys of home fall inury studies! - Sheldon (1960), Sjörgen (1991), Strandberg (1981), El-Faizy (1994).

  • Abeysekera, J., and Z. Khan. "Slipping and falling accidents on icy surfaces: a case study from northern Sweden." ARBETE OCH HALSA VETENSKAPLIG SKRIFTSERIE (1998): 201-204.
  • Bentley, Tim. "The role of latent and active failures in workplace slips, trips and falls: An information processing approach." Applied ergonomics 40, no. 2 (2009): 175-180.
  • Bentley, Tim A., and R. A. Haslam. "Identification of risk factors and countermeasures for slip, trip and fall accidents during the delivery of mail." Applied ergonomics 32, no. 2 (2001): 127-134.
  • El-Faizy, Marjan, and Sibylle Reinsch. "Home safety intervention for the prevention of falls." Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics 12, no. 3 (1994): 33-49.
  • Gao, Chuansi, and John Abeysekera. "The assessment of the integration of slip resistance, thermal insulation and wearability of footwear on icy surfaces." Safety science 40, no. 7 (2002): 613-624.
  • Haslam, R. A., and Tim A. Bentley. "Follow-up investigations of slip, trip and fall accidents among postal delivery workers." Safety Science 32, no. 1 (1999): 33-47.
  • Kemmlert, Kristina, and Lotta Lundholm. "Slips, trips and falls in different work groups—with reference to age and from a preventive perspective." Applied ergonomics 32, no. 2 (2001): 149-153.
  • Marietta, William. "Trip, slip and fall prevention." The Work Environment: Occupational Health Fundamentals 1 (1991): 241.
  • Pynoos, Jon, D. Sabata, and I. H. Choi. "The role of the environment in fall prevention at home and in the community." Falls free: Promoting a national falls prevention action plan (2005): 41-54.
  • Ryerson, Charles C. "Ice protection of offshore platforms." Cold Regions Science and Technology 65, no. 1 (2011): 97-110.
  • Sheldon, J. H. "On the natural history of falls in old age." British Medical Journal 2, no. 5214 (1960): 1685.
  • Sjörgen, Harmeet, and Ulf Björnstig. "Injuries among the Elderly in the Home Environment Detailed Analysis of Mechanisms and Consequences." Journal of Aging and Health 3, no. 1 (1991): 107-125.
  • Strandberg, Lennart. "On accident analysis and slip-resistance measurement." Ergonomics 26, no. 1 (1983): 11-32.
  • Strandberg, Lennart, and Håkan Lanshammar. "The dynamics of slipping accidents." Journal of Occupational Accidents 3, no. 3 (1981): 153-162.


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