Preventing Slip and Fall Claims

Slips and falls are a frequent cause of injuries sustained by employees and customers of small businesses. Such injuries are a leading cause of workers compensation and general liability claims.

Costs of Slips and Falls

Slips and falls can occur in your office, at your manufacturing plant, at a job site, in customer areas, or virtually anywhere else you conduct business. The victim may be an employee, a customer, or another third party. No matter where they occur, slips and falls are bad for business.

Slip-and-fall accidents disrupt your operations and reduce productivity. 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. Those who witnessed the accident or attended to the victim may be distracted for hours or days afterward. 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.

Warning: Slips and falls cause injuries, distress workers, disrupt your business, and can generate costly claims.

Slip-and-fall incidents can be expensive. Employees injured in a fall may require weeks or months to recover. Such workers may generate substantial claims under your workers compensation policy for medical treatment and disability. Your business may also incur costs to hire and train a replacement worker to fill in until the injured employee returns.

Customers and other individuals involved in slip-and-fall accidents on your property may file tort claims against your business for bodily injury. While such claims will likely be covered by your general liability insurance, they may cause your premium to rise when your policy renews.

Many workers compensation policies are subject to experience rating. While any claim may affect your future premiums, numerous small claims are more likely to result in a premium increase than one large claim.

Causes of Accidents

OSHA cites numerous workplace hazards that can trigger slips, trips, and falls. Some of these are listed below. These hazards can cause injuries to third parties as well as employees.

  • Slippery Floors. Many floors become slippery due to spills. Spills may involve liquids such as water, coffee or oil, or dry substances like sand and powders. Either can make floors slippery by reducing traction underfoot. Floors may also be made slippery by waxing or polishing.
  • 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 workspace 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 handrails, bad lighting, lack of signage, and poor traffic flow.
  • Improper Footwear. Without non-slip footwear, employees who work on uneven surfaces or in areas that are wet, icy, snowy or greasy are prone to falls.

Learn How to Identify Risks

Many of the risks that lead to slip and fall accidents can be reduced or eliminated. Once you have identified the hazards that exist at your workplace, you can formulate a plan to mitigate them. Here are some sources of information about slip-and-fall risks:

  • Your Insurers. Many liability and workers compensation insurers offer educational materials that can help you prevent trip-and-fall claims.
  • Your Insurance Agent or Broker. Your agent or broker may have useful information or know where to find it.
  • Government Agencies. Two excellent sources of information about preventing workplace slips and falls are OSHA and NIOSH (a division of the CDC). 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.
  • Safety Publications. You can also find practical advice on reducing slip-and-fall accidents from safety publications like Safety and Health,  Risk Management and EHS Today.

Note: Many slip-and-fall hazards are relatively easy to control once you know what they are.

An Ongoing Task

Preventing trips and falls is an ongoing task. You’ll need to inspect your workspace for hazards regularly. Add routine inspections to your calendar, so you don’t forget to do them. A checklist can help you remember what hazards to look for. You can ask your insurer for a list or look for one online. You’ll need to adapt the checklist to make it specific to your business. Be sure to keep it up-to-date. For instance, if you move your business to a different building, you will need to revise your checklist or draft a new one.

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