Customer personal injury claims can be costly and very damaging to your establishment’s reputation. They can be much more frequent than employee claims in some types of stores, especially if your warehouse allows customer access. Employee safety programs are not sufficient to protect customers, who are at risk for many more accidents than employees, for three primary reasons:
- Customers expect the store to be safe.
- Children and the elderly are predisposed to injury.
- Customers do not receive safety training.
Understand to what extent you are liable for customer injuries on your premises and take steps to prevent injury.
You are required to maintain safe premises for your customers; in legal terms, you have a high duty of care. This includes the duty to warn customers of non-obvious, dangerous conditions that you know about, to use ordinary care in active operations in the business and to make reasonable inspections to discover dangerous conditions and make them safe. Most customer accidents are preventable, so it is important to take steps to make your establishment safer and less exposed to the risk of customer injury and litigation.
Common injuries that could become your liability include the following:
- Slip and falls as a result of wet floors, torn carpets, poor lighting or escalators. This type of injury is extremely common.
- Head and body injuries from falling objects, displays, out-of-reach objects or other mishaps
- Overcrowding injuries
- Parking lot injuries as a result of cracked, improperly designed lots or failure to remove leaves, ice or snow.
Methods of Prevention
Slips and falls occur every day. The extent of injuries and their recurrence can be minimized through proper safety knowledge, good housekeeping and practicing prevention. Adopt a see it, sort it mentality. If you notice any situation that you think could present a slipping, tripping or falling hazard, encourage staff to act immediately to remedy it or notify a supervisor. There are several precautions you and your staff should take to minimize the risk of a customer claims, including:
- Identify high-risk areas of the facility (such as where liquids are frequently spilled or tracked), and set up an employee inspection schedule to ensure it does not become a dangerous condition.
- Remove all objects and clutter from aisles, exits and passageways. Trash, unused materials or any object left in aisles designed for pedestrian traffic invites falls. Extension cords, tools, carts, extra stock and other items should be removed or properly barricaded off. If equipment, supplies or products are left in walkways, remove or report it to the appropriate staff.
- Keep an eye out for uneven floors and fix them or notify someone who can immediately.
- Take care of slippery situations on sidewalks, stairs and parking lots promptly.
- Wet leaves, snowy and rainy weather requires a doormat at each entrance to allow for complete wiping of shoes. Display warning signs to alert others of a wet floor.
- Whenever a warning sign is used on a wet floor, remember to take it away as soon as the area is dry. This allows the signs to keep their credibility and increases their effectiveness.
- Staff should only walk in designated walking areas. Short cuts through shelves, storage or backstock areas invite accidents.
- Ensure proper lighting in all areas of the store and check on a regular basis that all bulbs are functioning. Document your inspections.
- Ensure that displays are stable, and always put heavy items near the bottom of shelves.
Stretch out bulging carpets to prevent trips and falls.
- Staff should use strong ladders to reach, as opposed to standing on small stools or boxes.
- Control crowds, especially during busy seasons or large sale events, through physical methods, such as entry turnstiles.
- Install video cameras to more efficiently monitor the premises for dangerous conditions and provide proof in case of a claim.
- Design parking lots to avoid injury. Repave, repair and check for hazardous conditions regularly. Repair broken light fixtures and replace bulbs for adequate visibility. Document these inspections.
Criminal accident teams can stage injuries, targeting several businesses in the same area. This fraud could cost you millions of dollars in unwarranted payouts. Evaluate this possibility in the event of a customer injury claim and notify the National Insurance Crime Bureau if you have a suspicion.
Liability insurance addresses the cost of legal damages and claims up to policy limits. Work with our team to design the liability package that fits your business–you will be able to select from a wide range of coverage options that you can tailor for your unique needs.