Preventing Slip and Fall Claims

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Slips and falls are a frequent cause of injuries sustained by employees and customers of small businesses. These injuries can be serious, leading to substantial workers compensation and general liability claims.

Negative Consequences

Slips and falls are bad for business. Whether they occur on your premises or at a job location, on-site injuries are disruptive. When a worker or customer falls, your employees must stop what they are doing to attend to the victim.

Employees may need to summon medical help and wait for it to arrive.

Injuries also have a negative psychological effect on employees or other customers. Employees who witnessed an accident or who attended to the victim may be distracted for hours or days afterward. If an employee is injured, you may need to hire and train a replacement until the injured worker returns. Moreover, news of a slip and fall injury can damage your company's reputation. People who hear about the accident may assume that you run an unsafe operation.

Slip and fall claims can impact your workers compensation and general liability premiums. Many workers compensation (and some liability) policies are subject to experience rating. Generally, numerous small claims are more likely to result in a premium increase at your next renewal than a single large claim.

Causes of Accidents

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls cause a majority of workplace accidents.

Such events are also a major element in many of the injuries sustained by customers and other visitors to businesses. Why do people slip and fall? Here are some common factors that lead to slip and fall accidents:

  • Slippery Floors Virtually any type of liquid can make a floor slippery. Examples are water, coffee, detergent, oil and grease. A dry floor can also be slippery. Floor wax, sand and powders (such as spilled wheat flour) can reduce traction underfoot, causing a fall.
  • Bumpy, Lumpy or Loose Surfaces Floors, parking areas and other walking areas can have small obstructions that can lead to trips and falls. Examples are frayed carpets, a buckled wood floor, a concrete parking block and a speed bump. Loose, uneven surfaces can also cause accidents. For instance, gravel, floor mats and area rugs can move underfoot, triggering a fall.
  • Poor Housekeeping A messy store, office, warehouse or other work space is an accident waiting to happen. Common trip and fall hazards include loose electrical cords or cables, cluttered work areas, items stored on floors, and overflowing trash cans.
  • Poor Design Some trip and fall injuries result from design problems. Examples are stairs with no hand rails, bad lighting, lack of signage and poor traffic flow.

Learn How to Identify Risks

Many of the risks that lead to slip and fall accidents can be reduced or eliminated. However, you must first learn how to identify them. Once you know what hazards exist, you can decide how to mitigate them. There are many good sources of information about identifying and controlling risks that can lead to slips and falls. Here are some of them:

  • Your Insurance Agent or Broker Your agent or broker may have the information you need or know where you can get it.
  • Government Agencies Two excellent sources of information about preventing workplace slips and falls are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Both have websites from which you can download information. Some states (such as California) have their own occupational and safety agency that may offer useful information.
  • Internet Other good sources of information are available on the Internet. Examples are other insurers' websites, legal websites, and websites of government agencies that are affiliated with other countries, such as Australia, Canada and the U.K.

An Ongoing Task

Preventing trips and falls is an ongoing task.

To ensure that your office or other workspace stays as risk-free as possible, you will need to inspect it regularly. Schedule routine inspections (put them on your calendar) so you don't neglect to do them. A checklist can help you remember what hazards to look for. Checklists can be found online or your insurer may provide one. Use a checklist (or a collection of them) as a guideline for drafting your own list. You will need to periodically update your checklist. For instance, if you move your business to a different building, you will need to revise your list or draft a new one.