Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention 2020 – Customer and Employees
Guest Column: John Harp, CSP, ARM—Risk Engineering Consultant, MSIG Insurance Group
The COVID-19 pandemic may have one positive outcome—studies show that in 2020 people have a heightened awareness of basic safety, health, and wellness. This translates into a need to do the right things, including ensuring a safe walking, working, and shopping environment inside and outside the store.
With winter upon us, and changing conditions including rain, snow, ice, or sunny skies, it’s important to remember that no matter the weather, we can’t lose sight of the basic need to manage the risk of slip, trip or falls.
Something else to consider is that the jobs situation and economy are affecting people in many ways, leading to distractions (e.g. not seeing the water spill left in an aisle) or desperation and fraud (e.g. looking for a lawsuit).
Nationally, MSIG-Aon insured franchisee locations since 2014 have suffered 629 employee claims as the direct result of slip, trip, or fall injuries. These claims can be split into a slip or trip leading to a fall on the same level (on the floor to the floor) or a fall from a different level (fall from a step stool, milk case or ladder to the floor).
The cost for these injuries totals over$10 million in medical bills and lost time. At an average cost of $16,330 per claim, a small investment in safety and simple housekeeping can provide valuable savings.
ACTUAL CLAIMS—TOTAL COST
- Employee tripped on mat and wires behind counter injuring hip—$455,882
- Employee tripped over a milk crate injuring shoulder and leg—$100,723
- Employee was reaching for cups and fell causing shoulder fracture—$258,541
THERE ARE LEGAL REASONS, TOO!
OSHA Floor Safety Rule (29CFR Part 1910) basics:
- Regularly inspect all walk areas to guaran-tee they are free of debris, contaminants, or other defects that could cause a slip, trip, or fall injury.
- Correct and guard any known walking-working risks to prevent a slip, trip, or fall injury.
COMMON CAUSES OF SLIP, TRIP & FALL INCIDENTS
In today’s environment with masks, new signs, hand sanitizers, queuing at the registers, maintaining social distance, and frequent extreme weather, the challenge to monitoring and maintaining a safe sidewalk, apron and entire store requires greater diligence than ever.
Tips To Avoid Slip, Trip & Fall Incidents
PARKING LOT, SIDEWALK, AND APRON
- Potholes, cracks, and uneven surfaces should be marked as hazards until repaired. Contact SEI immediately and maintain records.
- Parking stops misaligned or damaged. Check and immediately schedule for repair.
- Stops or curbs that are well marked or highlighted in yellow increase visibility.
- Quality of lighting – Call immediately if bulbs are out or dim.
- Gas islands can have oil or other liquid spills. Check often and keep absorbent available for use.
- Make sure the trash cans are not over-flowing and there is a clear path to the dumpster.
- If there is a mat outside, make sure it is in good condition.
- Avoid low displays, especially near the front door.
- Use a suitable mat at the front door, make sure it doesn’t have upturned cor-ners and is clean.
- Clean spills immediately. Add cones or wet floor signs and supervise the spill. (Your customers may go around the cones. Warning signs alone do not pre-vent a liability or injury claim!)
- Consider taller caution signs for better visibility.
- Do not leave inventory, cleaning materi-als, or other items on the floor where a cus-tomer or employee could trip.
- Make sure cameras allow for a good view of the aisles in case a record is needed of an alleged incident.
- Consider mats at coffee or other food service areas where spills occur.
SALES FLOOR—MOPPING AND CLEANING
- Check that mop water is clean and mop head is in good condition (time to change if it’s too dirty to see the bottom of the mop bucket).
- Replace mop heads frequently.
- Use wet floor signs before-during-after mopping
- Mop only during less busy times and clean small areas at a time.
- Follow wet mopping with a quick dry mop.
- Check that employees understand the proper mix for cleaning chemicals. It varies by flooring type.
- Don’t leave mop buckets unattended on the sales floor.
VAULT AND BACKROOM
- Cooler floors can be slippery from mois-ture or leaks. Clean and use caution.
- Crate dollies should be out of the aisle and turned upside down when not in use.
- Lighting should be sufficient to see any trip or slip hazards.
- Restroom—make sure the floor is dry and clean. Make regular checks of the room. Keep it secured unless required by local code.
- Sitting stools are not safe for reaching shelves. Obtain and use a proper ladder or step stool.
- Milk crates are not safe—a suitable step should be used.
- Climbing on shelves or dumpsters is dangerous.
WATCH THE WEATHER (CUSTOMERS WILL BRING IT INSIDE)
- Be prepared with salt, shovels and an extra mat.
- In rain or snow add an extra mat at the front door (cardboard is not a good substitute).
- Dry mop frequently.
- Use Caution-Wet Floor signs, but remove when not needed.
- If the landlord is responsible for the sidewalk/parking lot snow removal, make sure it’s okay and take care of entrance areas.
EMPLOYEE SAFETY PRACTICES—GENERAL
- Proper non-slip shoes make a difference.
- Always walk with caution—no running.
- No climbing on boxes, shelves, or other items that may tip over.
- Don’t leave spills unattended—cone off the area.
- Only use warning signs when needed.
- No cell phones while walking.
IN CASE OF ACCIDENT
- Attend to the fallen showing concern, but don’t lift them to their feet, especially the elderly. Wait for the experts.
- Get the incident facts—take photos and save surveillance tape.
- Document the incident, whether the employee or customer says they are okay.
- Time is critical in resolving claims. Report any potential employee or customer incidents to your insurance company/broker within three days.
Not all slip, trip, or falls can be prevented, but with proper awareness, training, and safe conditions you can greatly reduce the chances of an employee or customer getting injured in your store. The condition of the floor, mats, and general housekeeping. are vital in creating an environment that feels, looks, and is safer for your employees and customers.
For more information on store floor safety, check: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-100/pdfs/2013-100.pdf
If you need assistance with your slip and fall safety program, contact your broker, insurance carrier or me at 908-604-2951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customers or employees may sue a business if they believe they contracted the virus there. The primary defense is to:
- Follow retail store and SEI guidelines.
- Maintain social-distancing procedures and a mask-wearing mandate. Even if your customers don’t comply, having those rules in place may afford you lawsuit protection.
There is no Federal liability shield as yet, but many states have enacted protection excluding gross negligence or workers compensation. Report all potential claims and contact your broker.