Customers are headed your way in search of holiday decorations. But there are some things you need to do before they arrive to help make it a safe experience. Here are some of the most common hazards and some tips to help avoid them.
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the biggest reasons for injuries and resulting claims in floral shops, garden centers, and studios. And there’s no shortage of lawyers willing to take on a retail customer’s slip-and-fall case because:
- Slip-and-fall incidents are common injuries
- It’s the main duty of a business owner to prevent on-premises injuries
- Businesses are assumed to have deep pockets (or liability insurance with high limits)
Most people believe if they get injured at a business, they deserve to be compensated in some fashion—regardless of the circumstances surrounding the injury. But that’s not the case.
For a retail customer to bring a successful lawsuit, they have to prove the property manager knew or should have known about the hazard that caused the injury. In many cases, it’s not too difficult to prove a company should have known about a hazard because most states place a high burden of care on businesses to prevent injuries to customers.
The good news is that these pitfalls can be addressed with some simple housekeeping. For example, you can train your employees on the importance of spotting, reporting, and cleaning up slip-and-fall hazards.
When they notice a hazard that could cause an injury, they should take action immediately:
- Post clear warnings: Let customers and employees know floors may be slippery.
- Perform a quick clean-up: Allowing a spotted trip hazard to exist unresolved—even for just a few minutes—can result in an expensive lawsuit.
- Deal with any water: Wet floor signs with pictures (and printed in multiple languages, if possible) are a necessity in areas where water is in use. Have squeegees on hand to push pooling water into the drain or out of the way.
In addition, train your employees to identify and report any algae that may begin to grow. Algae is very common in areas with frequent watering.
Prevention is also a key step in avoiding slips, trips, and falls. Here are some important things to keep in mind year-round:
- Unclutter walkways: Small plants and displays can be a hazard if left in walkways. It’s especially true if something is on the floor and hidden around a corner. Also look for low-hanging items—such as flower baskets—and move them to protect customers and employees from hitting their heads.
- Use proper equipment and training: Make sure equipment such as ladders and step-stools are safe and in good condition. Train your employees in ladder safety. In addition, never allow customers to use any ladder at your business.
- Perform inspections: Follow a thorough checklist and perform inspections on a regular basis. Twice a shift is a common recommendation. The more you check, the more likely a hazard will be spotted.
- Create a response plan: Have a plan in place should there be a slip-and-fall event. All employees should know what to do if something happens, including:
- Calling medical help immediately, if needed
- Taking pictures of the area
- Noting the time of day, floor conditions, and presence of warning signs
- Documenting the name and contact information of any witnesses
All of this information may pay dividends if you receive a lawyer’s letter in the mail.
Having video of an alleged incident is often invaluable to defending against claims—especially those involving fraud. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but video is often priceless. Making a timely report to management so video can be saved is critical. Systems have come down significantly in cost, and digital offers very clear quality.
Slips, trips, and falls happen, but you can help lessen their occurrence and impact. Ask your Hortica agent for further safety resources, and never hesitate to ask questions. But remember, safety isn’t something you talk about once a year and then forget—it changes with the seasons. Hold regular training and create a safety team to identify any new issues. It can help you avoid costly claims.
If you have questions on doing safety inspections or how to start a safety program at your workplace, we’re here to help—just contact us.
For more information on protecting your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.
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