Everyone knows to be careful during the winter months when temperatures dip below freezing and there’s snow or ice on the ground. What people often neglect to consider is that hazards still exist in the summer months, both indoors and outdoors. In fact, it’s the element of surprise that can make summer slips, trips and falls more severe than those that occur in winter.
Slips, trips and falls are the second-leading cause of employee injury nationally, with these types of injuries increasing by 41 percent since 1998. Additionally, slips, trips and falls are also a leading cause of customer injuries.
Taken as a whole, it’s obvious that doing everything possible to prevent slips, trips and falls is not just a priority—it’s a necessity.
Identifying and Controlling Risk
The first step in controlling slips, trips and falls is figuring out if there’s a problem. A good place to start is by reviewing past loss history—have there been issues with slips, trips and falls in the past? Was the slip, trip or fall caused by something in particular, such as a wet or uneven floor?
Don’t just consider the interior of the property, either. While the absence of cold weather means there’s no ice or snow to slip and fall on, the remnants of winter may remain in the form of pot holes or cracked pavement. These should be repaired as soon as possible.
Be on the lookout for the following:
- Any defects in hard surfaces or loose carpet seams are major red flags. Even seemingly innocuous cracks or strings can trip someone up, resulting in serious injury. If there are defects in any flooring, replace it as soon as possible.
- Poorly lit stairwells are an accident waiting to happen. Add lighting as needed and change burnt out light bulbs immediately.
- There should be regularly dried walk-off mats by all doors, and any curled edges on mats should be straightened. If the mats are unable to be straightened, the mats should be replaced.
- If mops and wet floor signs aren’t readily available, that’s another problem. Conversely, the overuse of wet floor signs is also a problem. If a wet floor sign is out 100 percent of the time, odds are that patrons will ignore the sign when a real hazard does exist.
- Signage should be used to identify all changes in elevation, such as raised booths or dining rooms. Additionally, employees should be trained to point out these hazards.
While the saying goes that the customer comes first, keeping employees safe is also of the utmost importance.
The easiest place to start is with common sense. Require that your employees always wear shoes with heels and a full back, and do not allow them to wear pants with legs that touch the floor.
To go a step further, require non-slip or slip-resistant footwear. While this may sound a bit overboard depending on the industry, the amount of slips, trips and falls that could be prevented with proper footwear is staggering.
In addition to these footwear issues, the installation of non-slip mats in front of ice machines, beverage stations, cooking lines, and any other area where water or grease is likely to accumulate will help to reduce the chance of a nasty slip and fall.
Finally, owners or maintenance teams can go a long way to provide a safer working environment by verifying that the floor cleaning products used are compatible with the floor type and potential contaminants. For instance, certain cleaning products will be more effective at removing grease than others, and they can also be specific to vinyl, tile, wood or other flooring.
Responding to a Slip, Trip or Fall
Despite the best efforts of a business, a slip, trip or fall accident may still occur. In the event of such an incident, there is a proper way to respond:
- If a slip, trip or fall is reported, do not admit liability. Simply express concern, make sure the immediate needs of the individual are being met, and start gathering the facts.
- Visually inspect the location as soon as possible. Take careful notes and a picture.
- Take a written statement from the individual involved in the accident as soon as possible.
- Gather the names of any witnesses. Witnesses should be interviewed separately and as soon as possible after the accident.
- Retrieve and save surveillance video. This will be important evidence to corroborate the information gathered during the initial investigation. It is a good practice to save the video for a minimum of 30 minutes before and after the incident.
Of course, if no video surveillance system is present, the last step is impossible to complete. For that reason, all businesses without a video surveillance system should consider installing one. While it is not without expense, it can save owners a lot of money in case something bad happens. Surveillance systems help determine exactly what happened and in some cases can prove a supposed accident was in fact fraudulent. Key spots for video surveillance are entrances both outside and inside, dining area, hallways, and parking lots.
Identifying and monitoring high risk areas will go a long way in reducing the likelihood of a slip and fall accident. At a minimum, keep these items in mind:
- Inspect floors, carpeting, and stairways at least twice per year.
- Inspect for proper lighting.
- Inspect sidewalks and parking lots.
Society collaborates closely with all its policyholders to identify, evaluate and address the important details that could mean a big difference to each business. Society’s team of risk control experts has extensive experience, training and certification within select business niches. To find out how Society can help you, visit societyinsurance.com to find an agent and request a free quote.