That rumbling sound you hear are customers rushing in from the parking lot, ready to shake off the cold-weather blahs and add a little life and color back into their lives. You want them tripping over themselves to get into your business, but once inside, you want to do everything you can to avoid trips (and slips and falls).
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the biggest reasons for injuries and resulting claims (including workers’ compensation) in floral shops, garden centers, and studios. And there are no shortage of lawyers willing to take on a retail customer’s slip-and-fall case. Why?
- Slip-and-fall incidents are common injuries
- It’s the main duty of a business to prevent on-premises injuries
- Businesses tend 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. However, reality is different.
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 of the high burden of care placed on businesses—in most states—to prevent injuries to customers.
The good news is that these pitfalls can be addressed with some simple housekeeping. The most important thing you can do is train your employees on the importance of spotting, reporting, and cleaning up slip-and-fall hazards.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the law doesn’t allow businesses to take their time in resolving physical hazards. When a condition is noticed that could cause an injury, immediate action should take place. Post clear warnings—let customers and employees know floors may be slippery. Corner off the area and/or clean up as soon as possible. Allowing a spotted trip hazard to exist unresolved—even for just a few minutes—can result in an expensive lawsuit.
Perhaps the common hazard in this business is 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, make sure to train your employees to identify and report any algae that may begin to grow. Algae is very common with frequent watering and the added fertilizer in the water to promote plant growth.
Small plants and displays can be a hazard if left in walkways. It’s especially true if something is on the floor and can’t be seen around a corner. Also look for low-hanging items—such as flower baskets—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. Employees should also be trained in ladder safety. In addition, customers should never be allowed to use any ladder. Some of the most expensive injuries in the floral industry are the result of falls from ladders.
Periodic inspections of the retail area, using a thorough checklist, should be performed on a regular basis. A common recommendation is to perform an inspection twice per shift. The more you check, the more likely a hazard will be spotted.
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 required
- 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.
There are other steps you can take to prepare for slip-and-fall hazards, such as purchasing specialized flooring or installing a camera system. However, to summarize, the basics will always remain the same:
- Perform regular inspections
- Practice good housekeeping
- Maintain parking lots and walkways
- Train your employees
- Address hazards quickly
- Document your efforts
Having video of an alleged incident is often invaluable to defending against claims, especially those involving fraud. Remember to preserve the video! Making a timely report to management so video can be saved is critical. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but video is often priceless. Systems have come down significantly in cost, and digital is now very clear in 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.