Slip and fall accidents can hurt customers, cause big headaches for you and even land you in court.
Customer slip and fall incidents account for about 10 percent of small business claims at an average price tag of $20,000, according to claims data from The Hartford. If the customer files a lawsuit, which happens about 35 percent of the time in general liability claims, that amount can easily increase to $75,000 or more.
Fortunately for small business owners, there is a way to financially protect your business. Business insurance covers the cost of slip and fall accidents that happen to customers, guests, and others—such as a delivery driver—who stop by your business. The insurance will even cover you if you get sued.
Safety Steps to Avoid Slip and Fall Accidents
These types of accidents typically occur when a customer catches a shoe on a loose rug, stumbles on an uneven floorboard, or slips on an icy walkway. In fact, about 30,000 slip and fall accidents get treated in emergency departments each day in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. Injuries range from bruises and cuts to back injuries, broken bones, and even skull fractures.
Take action to shore up safety and prevent slip and fall accidents. Follow this checklist to protect your business and customers:
1. Survey your business for hazards. Walk the premises to look for and take note of common causes of slip and fall incidents, including:
- Slick flooring
- Uneven surfaces
- Changes in floor height that lead to a step-up between rooms
- Broken, cracked, or uneven walkways
- Potholes, bumps, or other defects in a parking lot
2. Repair problems quickly. Schedule repairs as soon as possible. Fixes might include:
- Changing to less slippery flooring
- Placing flat non-slip mats with beveled edges in strategic locations
- Repairing or replacing damaged carpet
- Filling parking lot potholes
- Changing the position of gutter downspouts that pour water on walkways
3. Look at lighting. Poor lighting can contribute to falls. Check for areas with poor visibility, glare, or shadows that can make it hard to spot hazards at dusk or dark. If necessary, install better lighting, especially along walkways.
4. Boost safety with signage. If there is an issue that can't be repaired, such as a small step-up from a lower to a higher floor, post brightly colored warning signs. And after mopping, have employees put out "wet floor" signs or even cordon off wet areas.
5. Schedule daily checks. Choose a regular time each day to briefly re-check your property. Look for any issues that have popped up since your last check and address problems promptly.
6. Plan for bad weather. Rain and ice make a normally safe surface dangerous. Put a plan in place to prevent accidents in inclement weather, including clearing snow, sprinkling salt on icy walkways, and placing flat mats with non-slip backing near entryways.
7. Keep good records. Every time you walk your property to check for slip and fall hazards or take a step to prevent an incident, such as sprinkling salt on icy sidewalks, document the action, date, and time in a safety log.
Be Proactive: Prepare a Slip and Fall Plan
Despite your best efforts, a slip and fall may occur. Protect your business by putting a plan in place ahead of time and training your employees on how to handle an incident. Keep a fully stocked first aid kit accessible at all times and show your employees where it's located.
The first priority after an incident should be to attend to the person who fell, show concern, and promptly offer medical care. Instruct employees to call an ambulance if necessary. Customers who feel they were treated with care and compassion after a fall are less likely to sue, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Consider creating a slip and fall incident report form so you can be ready to record the details if a slip and fall occurs. Train your employees to fill out the form in case a customer or other visitor trips and falls while you're away.
Be sure to include the following on your incident report form:
- Date, time, and location
- Summary of the incident, including what the person was doing right before the fall
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses
- Space to record relevant details, such as what kind of footwear the person was wearing and whether they were using a device like a cane or walker or using eyeglasses
- A section to note any conditions that may have contributed, such as a wet floor or patch of ice, as well as documentation of attempts to address the issue, such as signage or a floor mat
- A reminder to take photos of the location of the fall
If a slip and fall does occur, don't hesitate to report the incident to your insurance company. Tell your insurer if you have documentation, such as a copy of an incident report and photos.
When it comes to slip and fall accidents, precautions and preparation will help you avoid common missteps and keep your business on steady ground.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.