Preventing slips, trips and falls to avoid liability claims
You may remember the line from the TV advertisement several years ago, “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” It has become a punch line for many jokes, but slips, trips and falls are no joking matter. They can happen in a split second, can happen virtually anywhere and can result in serious injuries or death. Slip, trip and fall accidents are one of the leading types of general liability claims received by insurance companies.
- Approximately 25,000 people a day are victims to slip and fall accidents. The expense of these injuries is running $3.5 million per hour, every hour of the day, and every day of the year. That’s over $30 billion per year (National Safety Council 2009).
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 17,000 people die annually from slip and fall accidents.
- Slips and falls are the #1 cause of accidents in hotels, restaurants & public buildings, with 70% of these accidents occurring on flat/level surfaces (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- The average cost to defend a slip and fall lawsuit is $50,000 (National Food Safety Institute).
- Per FOX6 show, fraudulent slip and fall claims are up 25% since 2008.
- Plaintiffs win 51% of premises liability claims (Jury Verdict Research).
If you are a property owner or assist with maintaining properties, you need to ask yourself: Am I doing my due diligence towards preventing these types of accidents? What should I be looking for in terms of potential hazards?
What are some frequent causes of slip, trip and fall accidents both inside & outside of buildings?
- Lack of maintenance – walking surfaces not being cleared properly or frequently enough. There should be a pre-determined schedule for maintaining all walking surfaces. Snow & ice during the winter months is a big contributor and should be removed frequently. Accumulations of sand can be slippery and should be removed in the spring.
- Uneven surfaces – pot holes, curbs, speed bumps, change in floor levels, missing tiles, protruding bricks or cracked concrete (note: walking surfaces typically should not have elevation changes greater than ¼”) and carpets that are not laying completely flat.
- Improper lighting – all walking surfaces should be well lit
- Missing or loose handrails and/or guardrails
- Lack of management controls associated with cleaning up spills, water tracked into buildings during adverse weather and deteriorating walking surfaces.
So what can be done to help prevent slip, trip and fall accidents? Here are some items for consideration:
Ongoing inspections – There should be scheduled inspections conducted regularly by trained staff using a checklist. The checklist will guide them to constantly look at the right areas and create a record to demonstrate your consistent efforts towards maintaining your premises.
Maintenance logs – (for inside & outside) should be utilized to show what was done, the times & dates, and who completed the work and/or inspections. Maintenance records that document your efforts can greatly help defend a slip and fall claim. All snow removal contractors should also be maintaining logs each time they visit your properties. Pedestrian traffic areas should be checked multiple times during inclement weather to identify and treat any hazards. Sand and salt should be applied as needed in order to prevent slips and falls but also be aware of the thaw then re-freezing cycle.
Caution Signs -Businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores should have strict policies pertaining to cleaning up spills and food products immediately. If floors are temporarily wet due to cleaning, cautions signs should be utilized. All carpets should be inspected regularly to make sure they are lying flat. Entrances should have additional carpets placed to absorb water tracked inside during bad weather. If using a contracted mat service, they should be responsible for providing mats that lay flat and for replacing/cleaning them as needed.
Repairs – uneven surfaces should be repaired as soon as possible. Holes & cracks should be filled, bricks fixed so they are not protruding and elevated portions of sidewalks should be removed and replaced. Curbs and speed bumps should be painted a bright color to make them more visible. Steps should be in good condition and kept clear of materials.
Increase lighting – Walk your property at night and determine if there is enough lighting to see obstacles such as elevated sidewalks and stairs. Burned out lights should be replaced immediately. Be sure to adjust timers for your automatic lights on the day of daylight savings.
Install handrails & guardrails – Although some older legacy codes allow 3 risers without a handrail, I recommend having handrails on all stairways and ramps. Handrails should be on both sides and sometimes in the middle – for example, accessible within 30” of all portions of the stair width. Height of handrails should generally be between 34” and 42”. Guardrails should typically be provided where stair height is 30” above floor level. Guardrail height should be around 42”. Handrails & Guardrails should be inspected to make sure they are not loose, wobbly or rotted.
Management controls – Besides having formal maintenance & documentation as discussed above, management should also be investigating all accidents immediately once notified, but only after seeking medical attention, if needed. Accident investigation reports and witness statements should be completed. Taking pictures can also help identify hazards and may help when defending a claim. All accidents should be reported within 24 hours to your insurance company.
Surveillance cameras can also deter fraudulent claims or provide proof of fraudulent activity.
Don’t forget loss control questions and answers are only a phone call away with our Virtual Loss Control Team or 1-800 870 1100 ext. 570. We can also provide sample incident investigation forms and assist with developing checklists.
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing herein should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility.