Slips Trips and Falls: What is the Property Owner’s Responsibility?

22994132_sPart of business ownership is ensuring that all employees and visitors on the premises are reasonably protected from harm.  This places a degree of accountability on the property owner as well as any manager who oversees activities in the building.  If you happen to hold either of those positions, it helps to understand what could happen if someone is injured while on the property.  While this may seem cut and dried on the surface, it can get quite involved.

Who is Responsible? It Depends

Wherever people gather, there is at least some potential for slips trips and falls to take place.  Rest assured that someone will be held liable for those accidents when and as they occur.  As to who that might be, there is no one answer that applies in every case.

The term used to refer to that accountability is known as premises liability.  At its core, this simply refers to the responsibility of property owners and managers to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of anyone on the premises.  In some cases, it can also refer to the responsibility of a guest to make use of all safety features found on the property in order to avoid being involved in an accident.

Remember that what is reasonable in one situation may not be sufficient in another.  For example, it is reasonable for a retail store manager to check the aisles hourly for tracked in mud or melted snow that leave the floors slippery.  Over at the auto repair shop, the team would check the floors in the service bays and the reception area at half-hour intervals in order to make sure no oil has spilled or been tracked into the space, creating the potential for a fall.  

Making Reasonable Safety Efforts

A good rule of thumb to remember is that the origin of those slips trips and falls matters.  If wires are exposed while the electrical system is being repaired, posting a sign for unauthorized personnel to stay away constitutes reasonable effort.  In like manner, if a section of the floor was just mopped, setting up a sign cautioning visitors to not walk in that area is also considered a reasonable safety feature.

What Happens if a Fall Does Occur?  

Even with attention to detail, the potential for various slips trips and falls still exists.  When an incident does occur, insist on immediate medical attention for the visitor. Stiffness, pain, and other problems may begin to manifest in the days ahead.  A quick examination by a physician will head off a number of potential issues.

Next, focus on the scene of the event.  Was there something slippery on the floor?  Are there any warning signs in the area?  Your goal is to determine what, if anything, you and your employees could have done to prevent the accident from occurring.

Finally, contact your legal counsel.  While some slips trips and falls will not result in anyone taking action against you, it pays to be prepared.  Your attorney will know exactly what to do in terms of evaluating the evidence and working with the insurance company if a claim is filed.

Remember that clean spaces go a long way in avoiding slips trips and falls.  Having a professional cleaning service come in nightly will help to ensure the floors are safe.  During the day, have someone make a round regularly to see if any potentially unsafe situations are developing.  Doing so will help keep your guests safe and comfortable during their time at your place of business.

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