Accidents related to slips, trips and falls account for a large number of general liability and workers’ compensation claims. Often, these types of accidents are simply caused by wet or icy surface conditions. However, such accidents (and the injuries that result from them) are often also related to, among other things, inadequate maintenance, improper footwear being worn for the conditions, surface elevation changes, worn or torn carpets, and the relative physical condition of an organization’s patrons, clients, visitors and staff. Thankfully, many of those accidents can be avoided through a deliberate risk management process of identifying and controlling the hazards and exposures associated with slips, trips and falls. As such, consider the following suggestions to help reduce the frequency (and potential severity) of slips, trips and falls in and around your organization:
- Monitor the local weather for changing conditions. Be prepared to truly combat weather-related slip, trip and fall accidents (for example, by timely removal or clearing of snow, ice and water puddles).
- Assign staff the responsibility of conducting frequent facility inspections to identify problem areas (and typically before normal office hours or peak facility usage times). Conduct on-going training of your staff and others who are responsible for keeping parking lots, walkways, hallways and other common areas clear
- Provide good lighting and clear path markings around facilities, parking lots and walkways. Identify and warn persons about steps, ramps, and other elevation changes that might not be clearly visible.
- Evaluate and maintain floor coatings, slip-resistant mats, carpeting or other materials where slips, trips and falls are often likely to occur (for example, areas just outside or inside door entryways). Place caution signs to inform persons of areas that are wet, prone to moisture, or less well lighted.
- Develop a culture of safety and prevention with respect to slips, trips and falls. This includes defining roles, responsibilities and expectations regarding same within your organization or facility, as well as checking to make sure those roles, responsibilities and expectations are being met.
- Promptly document and report to appropriate personnel any wet, slippery or hazardous conditions, and assure a timely follow up to mitigate or eliminate the condition. Report all slip, trip and fall incidents, even if they seem to be only minor in nature.
One February in a very cold and icy climate, an insured was operating a location that accepts and resells donations. In the entrance of this particular establishment, there were non-skid mats spread out over a portion of the floor near the shopping carts. Unfortunately, a substantial area of the floor was not covered and had traces of snow and water present.
No wet floor signs were present and the insured’s elderly customer slipped and fractured her femur. This all could have been avoided with proper floor covering and signage.
This case involves an insured’s parking lot and a man-made hazard that did not have proper warnings. The claimant was exiting the Insured’s thrift store and walked between caution tape and a vehicle that was parked directly in front of the entrance. After clearing that vehicle, the claimant tripped over a large, metal toolbox that was sitting in the insured’s parking lot, between her vehicle and the vehicle that was in front of the entrance. This toolbox was not seen by the claimant when she entered the store due to its location on the ground and it being obscured by the parked vehicle. The claimant fell forward, struck her head on her vehicle, landed on her knees and sustained a laceration to her elbow.
There were safety cones to the left of the customer’s vehicle, but none present to prevent a customer from walking near the tool box. The insured immediately removed this box from the parking lot, eliminating any future hazard.
Efforts to identify, reduce and eliminate slips, trips and falls can dramatically impact the loss costs and safety of your organization. Make sure that safety and accident prevention is everyone’s job.Suggestions and comments contained herein are provided for purposes of general education only. Suggestions and comments are not intended for the purpose of providing you with legal advice or legal counsel, and are not intended to assure compliance with or complete analysis of any law, rule or regulation. In addition, suggestions and comments should not be interpreted to imply or infer that all exposures, hazards or loss potentials on any subject or issue were identified or considered. No warranty, or guaranty of accuracy, fitness or suitability, express or implied, is granted with respect to any of the information contained herein.