This winter has been brutal—ice and snow accumulating; water being tracked over your floor mats and onto your floors; salt eating up your finish. We can all agree that 2014 is off to a nasty beginning.
During these freezing temperatures and accompanying weather incidents, the insurance industry is reminded of just how common slips, trips and falls can be–and costly too! The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) estimates that the average liability award for injury to a customer is between $60,000 to $100,000 per claim!
Slips, trips and falls are common because of the simple nature of inviting people to be on your property, whether it be a leased office building, retail shopping plaza, medical office, manufacturing facility, or even a home based business. Simply having the public on your property presents an opportunity for a slip/trip/fall, and you may be considered “at fault.”
Aside from the direct cost of a slip or fall injury (medical and indemnity), there are many indirect costs, which are not insurable.
In insurance, we often use the image of an iceberg: what you can see is usually what is insurable, but what lurks under the water is going to be what causes the real damage. These intangible costs can include:
- Customer or employee resentment
- Public perception of the property being “unsafe”
- Lost revenue from the customer not coming back
- Investigation costs
- And more…
In today’s world of social media, an unhappy or injured guest can put out a tweet or post a photo to Facebook faster than you can say “I’m Sorry.”
Here are a few simple habits and practices to help you stay one step ahead of a slip, trip, or fall. These are common sense methods, that may be obvious, but taking the time to remind yourself could be the saving grace between your business and a nasty news story.
Inspection & Maintenance
Of particular concern are walking surfaces, such as sidewalks, cross walks, parking lots and entryways. Obviously, the general condition is important, such as cracks, holes, handrails, etc. Additional items to investigate are mats, rugs and carpets that may bunch up or curl on the edges.
Loose mats should be secured if possible, and if edges curl, consider replacing. Entries should be free of water during inclement weather, and transitional areas should be covered with mats as well, and changed out once saturated. This also includes overhead exposures, such as clogged or frozen gutters, that may drip or overflow onto walkways.
Steps and Stairs
Building codes should be the basis of stairway design, to ensure proper stair tread height and depth. Where possible, the nosing of stair treads should be of contrasting color to allow differentiation of stairs. Slip resistance floor surfaces with a low coefficient of friction (slip resistance) should be chosen, and handrails should be in good condition, and easy to access.
Adequate lighting is very important in every area of your business—main indoor and outdoor areas, walkways, stairwells, etc.
Regular inspections of outdoor overhead lighting should be done routinely, and an arrangement should be in place with an outdoor lighting contractor for quick replacement when bulbs either go out, or a pole is knocked down or out of service (i.e., electrical surge due to weather).
Stairway lighting is equally important and emergency lighting should be installed and tested in accordance with the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101).
Considerations for Employees
There are several fall exposures specific to employees, such as when doing repairs (i.e., roof) or preventive maintenance on air handling units or window replacements.
Fall prevention plans should be in place in accordance with OSHA requirements, as should training for affected employees.
Additionally, ladder safety programs should be in place too. Consider using a shoe program, such as Shoes for Crews, to ensure your employees are wearing safe foot attire.
Once you start evaluating potential fall related exposures to your property, it seems that the list of ways a person can fall become endless. The importance of inspecting, maintaining, and regularly training your employees becomes obvious when you pay attention to the direct and indirect costs.
Westfield risk control specialists can help you assess your workplace, offer improvement tips, and can even test the slip resistance (coefficient of friction) of your floors. Westfield can also assist in training your maintenance and supervisors in how to cultivate slip/trip/fall awareness, it is a hazard we take for granted, yet costs our medical community up to $70 BILLION per year to heal.
For more information on risk control for your business, check out Westfield's risk control resources.
What safety measures have you implemented at your operation to reduce exposures to slips, trips and falls? Leave a comment or question in the panel below.