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Conditions Leading to Indoor Slip and Fall Accidents

More than 99% of all businesses in America are small businesses. Accidents leading to personal injury claims are more common in small businesses than elsewhere. Slip-and-fall accidents are the top cause of business-related personal injury claims.

Even with business insurance, a slip-and-fall lawsuit is costly and time-consuming. You can't avoid all slip-and-fall injuries among your customers and employees. But you can take steps to minimize serious injuries and protect yourself and your business from liability if a slip-and-fall case does head to court. Knowing your legal duty before an accident can help prevent slip-and-fall accidents from becoming lawsuits.

Train Employees to Spot Hazards

Small business owners can prevent potential hazards from becoming dangerous by teaching employees what to look for. Instead of just telling employees to "clean up" an area, provide direction on the specific hazards to each location. If your workers rotate from location to location, for instance, in a grocery store or restaurant, they may not remember that risks change in each area.

Create Detailed Checklists for Inspections

Your state department of labor or OSHA office has templates for workplace safety checklists. Each area should have an inspection checklist. The checklists should cover the area's potential slip and fall injury hazards for the site. Your list will depend on your type of business, but it might include:

  • Make sure floors are dry and free of obstacles and debris. Mark and replace loose or broken tiles as soon as possible. Firmly fix rugs, mats, and carpets to the floor. Repair rips or holes quickly.
  • Make sure stairs are well-lit. Hang handrails at a proper height and conform to state and federal laws. Use non-skid paint or tape if laws require it. Make sure warning signs, like "No roof access," stay visible.
  • Check restrooms for wet floors and debris regularly. Keep surfaces clean and free of litter. Make sure stall doors stay secure and open and close easily.
  • Keep parking lots well-lit at night. Repair potholes quickly, especially those that affect sidewalks and walkways.
  • Maintain escalators or elevators regularly by the manufacturer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires annual inspections.
  • Storage areas should only be accessible to employees. Correct poor lighting immediately. Level broken floors or uneven surfaces. Inspect employee areas as carefully as the front since employee slip-and-fall accidents are most common here.

Conduct Regular Inspections

Now that you have your checklists, use them. Your business will dictate how often you inspect various areas and what you will check. You should check public areas and floors more often than back areas and ceilings. You should inspect all areas at least once a day. You may find running inspections at the beginning and end of each shift helpful or having managers carry out hourly checks.

Post Warning Signs by Hazards

If you can't fix it immediately, ensure everyone knows a hazard exists. Some indoor slip and fall hazards, like slippery floors, are easy to fix. Others, like broken pavement, take more time. You can minimize fall liability and risk by promptly posting warning signs and blocking off hazardous areas until repaired.

Create and Use an Incident Report

If you have workers' compensation insurance, you already must file an incident report in case of employee injury. Your insurance provider may have a similar report to use for a customer injury. You should get into the habit of writing a brief report even if the incident is not serious enough to contact your insurance company or send a worker to the doctor. If there was enough of an incident that you did something, you should have a record.

Consider Installing Security Cameras

Not all businesses need security cameras. If you want them, place them where they help the most. Discuss placement with a security expert before installation. Remember that someone must watch the security cameras or change the recording media for them to be effective.

Ideal locations for security cameras include:

  • Stairways. You should consider having cameras looking up and down the stairwells.
  • Entries and exits.
  • Slip-prone areas where water may accumulate, such as produce or refrigeration areas in groceries.
  • Parking lots.

State and federal laws prohibit cameras in restrooms or changing rooms.

Document Everything

Property owners and business owners have a "heightened duty of care" in legal terms. That means when someone gets injured on their property, they must show that they did everything possible to prevent that injury from happening. Insurance companies and their attorneys know that dangerous conditions will happen no matter how cautious a business is. The issue is whether you have done your best to remedy the situation.

For instance, suppose you have a restaurant. During one evening rush, a child spills a glass of water on the floor. An alert server wipes up most of the water, puts up a warning sign, and lets the manager know. The manager tells a busser to mop the floor and fills out an incident report noting everything that happened. Later, a customer files a lawsuit claiming they slipped in the puddle because nobody did anything about it. Your lawyer can show your paperwork demonstrating your history of regularly checking the floors and the manager's report from that night.

Contact Your Insurance Company

If you have business insurance, contact your insurance company immediately after any incident involving a customer. Check your insurance policy so you know what your policy requires for legal purposes. They can let you know if you need legal advice if there is a potential injury claim.

Follow Up with the Injured Person

Surprisingly, insurance companies advise contacting the injured person after an accident. Expressing concern for the person's well-being without admitting fault or liability is possible. One reason people tend to file slip-and-fall claims is a perception of indifference on the part of the business owner. A suggestion of concern and willingness to work with the customer can go a long way to avoiding a lawsuit.

Talk to an Attorney

If you have a small business, you need a business law attorney or personal injury attorney near you to help you understand premises liability laws.

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