Post written by Tim Munoz
- Threat of increased litigation
- Expanding consumer product regulations
- Laws that require businesses to equally accommodate everyone (ADA, etc)
- Exceedingly high monetary awards for punitive damages
As you think about injuries than could possibly occur at your place of business, keep in mind that it is more likely that someone unfamiliar with your facility will be injured than someone that knows the lay of the land. It is important that business management be concerned for the well-being of everyone that steps through the door, including customers, contractors, business partners, and the occasional citizen stopping in to ask directions. Considering these different scenarios will help you determine relative level of risk and opportunities to manage liability.
As a business owner/operator – you are responsible for everyone that walks onto your property, and should prepare to accommodate accordingly. Unfortunately, this may even include the installation of preventative measures to prevent the injury of trespassers.
If left unaddressed, you could be placing your business, and business cash flow at great risk. The cost of liability claims are known to impact a company’s bottom line, in varying degrees dependent on the level of injury. Those businesses that address liability exposure with proactive loss prevention measures will be in a better position to:
- Adhere to federal and state requirements, and other legal responsibilities
- Enjoy lower insurance costs
- Improve profitability
- Enhance public opinion of consumer products
- Control the exposures of premises liability incidents
While the extent of a company’s exposures is characteristic to their operations, and can make it difficult to provide one guide to cover all situations, there are some general guidelines that any business can use as a starting point to protect against liability claims. We provide a few tips below.
General Liability Considerations For Every Business
The following is a list of general measures that may help protect the well-being of persons visiting your facility. Everyone within a business should be held accountable, not only for their personal safety, but also for the safety of others:
- Ensure that employees are properly trained to service and handle customers complaints.
- Perform regular inspections of jobsites and common areas to identify hazards. Have a plan of action to remove or control them.
- Ensure that aisles, layout, displays, fixtures, furniture, stored materials, glass windows, and doors are well maintained and present no risk of personal injury in customer areas.
- Maintain the condition and lighting of parking lots, storage or warehouse areas, loading docks, sidewalks, hallways, stairways, handrails, floors, dining area and restrooms, and all other accessible areas.
- Ensure prompt attention to remove slip, trip, and fall hazards.
- Maintain good housekeeping practices in all areas. Make them as clean, sanitary and dry as possible.
- Maintain good storage practices in aisles and passageways. Never allow blocked egress.
- Keep loading dock areas clear of materials and other unnecessary debris. Paint the edge of the docks and other areas with a change in elevation yellow or another contrasting color.
- If appropriate, designate visitor parking at your facility.
- Ensure that tours for the public (customers) are restricted to non-hazardous areas and that authorized personnel are used as guides.
- Post “No Trespassing” signage where needed.
- Ensure that all contracts are reviewed by legal counsel and are properly executed.
What To Do When Unfortunate Situations Occur
Should a customer or visitor injury occur at your business, a quick and careful response is needed. First, prompt attention and care must be given to the injured party and the incident scene should be secured to prevent other injuries.
Avoid the desire to say, “I’m sorry.” That simple statement, while a friendly reaction, can imply that you are liable and you will be held accountable. Consider the phrase, “Are you OK?” followed with “Tell me what happened.” This is still a nice response, but you do not offer fault.
Items to Consider as You File an Incident Report
An incident report should be prepared in all instances, including those where no injury is reported. It is extremely important that the incident report be as all-inclusive as possible. Many times these reports become evidence in legal proceedings that are presented years later. It is important to have record of documentation you can readily reference.
Consider these elements when designing and using your incident report form:
- Report all public incidents and accidents by using a standard incident report, which has been reviewed and accepted by management and the legal department.
- The incident report should be completed by a management representative.
- Remember that the main goal is to effectively investigate the incident/accident/near-miss to prevent reoccurrence.
- Describe the incident using factual information, but do not record assumption or mere opinion. In a trial, assumptions and opinions will not hold up or be allowed.
- Include any details in the report that could be pertinent to the cause of the incident, and document with photographs if possible.
- Give exact location and time.
- Get names, addresses, and detailed statements of any and all witnesses.
- Recall any pertinent instruction or conversation held before the incident.
- Report the incident immediately to the owner/management.
- Prompt and accurate information gathering and recording is essential in any investigation. Details fade after 24 hours.
Be sure to report any possible guest injury to your insurance carrier. Significant cost savings and fraud reduction is possible when claims are reported in a timely manner.
How does your business minimize risk of injury on-site? Let us know in the comment section below.