Forecasters are predicting a busy winter storm season this year, and the blizzard conditions that moved across much of the country in early January may be only the beginning. Facility maintenance is critical during the winter months to prevent costly property claims. It is equally important to incorporate slip-and-fall prevention into your facility maintenance plan.
As you may expect, slip-and-fall claims tend to increase during the winter months and can be extremely costly if it is determined that negligence was a contributing factor. However, these claims may be largely preventable or mitigated by being proactive in identifying potential exposures and implementing good loss control practices to address safety issues.
In many cases, preventing potential liability claims due to slip-and-fall events begins with the property inspection. During winter months, it is important to conduct property inspections more frequently in order to respond to changing weather conditions and quickly identify potential hazards related to uneven surfaces, hidden hazards, slippery conditions, or poor lighting.
Each year, MiniCo sees an increase in claims related to hidden ice or obstacles during winter months. Using cones, barricades and signage is an effective way to identify parking blocks (turtarriers), steps, ditches and other potential obstacles that may be hidden by snow. Be on the lookout for cracks in the sidewalks, uneven pavement, potholes, icy surfaces, and other issues that may create a slip-and-fall hazard. It is important to ensure sure footing on wet or icy surfaces by spreading sand or kitty litter on outdoor walkways and using entryway mats indoors to increase traction. Also be sure that light fixtures are in proper working order.
Providing ongoing safety training for employees is another valuable risk management tool. Training educates staff members about inspection, maintenance and remediation requirements to prevent slip-and-fall injuries and creates an awareness that enhances the overall safety and security of your facility premises.
In the event of an incident that results in a liability claim in which negligence may be a factor, remember that you as the business owner will be measured by the actions taken by the facility to mitigate and prevent the exposure that led to the claim. Businesses are expected to take “prudent and reasonable steps” to prevent slip-and-fall exposures.
Your insurance agent can work with you to review your business insurance policy including your limits for general liability and umbrella coverage. Broad insurance coverage and proper limits combined with property inspections, employee training and other risk management strategies may help you ride out the challenging winter weather ahead and prevent costly liability claims and lawsuits.
President and CEO