Raking liability aside when you rake the leaves

I’m enjoying the fall colours Down East like everyone else. The forest and the falling leaves, and those that end up on the path where I walk my dogs are something else. The dappled sunlight in the forest is a special sight especially after a light rain when the leaves are glistening in the sun. What’s not to like?

But it hit me recently when I had Rosie and Lily out for their morning pee run that these wet leaves on my sloping lawn are slippery – wet from rain not dog pee. I was a bit surprised.

Later when I was walking down the timber stairs from my deck the same thought occurred. There weren’t many leaves on the stair but when I slid my boot across the few, I could see that a lot of leaves might reduce the skid resistance of the timber enough to cause a slip and fall. No question a lot of wet leaves on a sloping, wet lawn would reduce the resistance. I’m careful now when I walk down a wet slope in a field overlooking Settle Lake in Halifax where my dogs run around like crazy.

How is this relevant to the purpose of this blog site “…to explain the nature and methods of forensic engineering and expert services”?

Well, who would have known wet leaves could cause someone grief? And is there a responsibility to rake the leaves everywhere in public places to reduce the liability?

It’s relevant because some might wonder, can you test the skid resistance of a leaf covered timber stair or a wet, leaf covered lawn? You certainly can.

I tested the skid resistance of the wet floor in a dry sauna where a woman had slipped and fallen using the skin from a pig’s belly. The skin is very similar to that on a person’s foot. I couldn’t use the woman’s foot and cause her to slip and fall again. Although I did think briefly about how I might have used her foot.

If you can measure it you can deal with it. (Refs 1 to 4) I believe you can measure everything including the frictional resistance of wet, leaf covered surfaces, and even the forest floor. Sometimes the measurements are rough but rough is better than nothing.

So, sweep those stairs, rake that lawn, and take care where you walk in public places.


  1. Osmond, Jack, “If you can measure it, you can manage it”, As quoted several years ago
  2. If you can measure it you can manage it, even if it’s a real mess like a car or truck accident. Posted June 23, 2016
  3. “Taking the measure” – forming an opinion of the cause of a fatal motor vehicle accident. Posted February 15, 2016
  4. “If you can measure it you can manage it” and do thorough forensic engineering and cost effective litigation. Posted June 18, 2015

(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada October 25, 2021 ejorden@eastlink.ca)   

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