— By Jessica Schultz —
Don’t slip up this winter and let your patrons down.
Preventing and managing slip-and-fall accidents at your locations is just as important as all other exterior and interior maintenance items. Being in the middle of winter, the main concern right now is slippery snow and ice, as well as unavoidable hazards underneath the snow and ice. In areas without snow, handling and fixing property defects is important year-round.
There are many key things to consider when managing risks on your properties and preventing injuries among customers and employees. These include immediately fixing defects on the property and conducting a proper risk management assessment, understanding your management company’s responsibilities and liability policies, and having an effective reporting system in place for when slip-and-fall accidents do occur.
Be Proactive About Fixing Defects
The best way to prevent slip-and-fall incidents at your store locations is to do a risk management assessment to identify hazards and get them fixed immediately. This includes assessing high-traffic areas outside and inside for any potential issues and reviewing past reports to fix any repeated problem areas.
It’s critical that facility managers are aware of the defects on their properties so that they can be repaired quickly. This includes uneven concrete, misplaced downspouts causing water to drain improperly, and potholes.
Before snow falls, it’s imperative to have any potholes repaired to avoid them from getting bigger, and to prevent someone from slipping and falling on them when they are covered in snow. Also, if you notice an area of the parking lot that takes longer to dry up or that’s not draining properly, it will need to be fixed as soon as possible because it will also become an ice spot when it snows.
Regardless of the season, make sure your property is maintained throughout the year and risks are continually assessed so the likelihood of an injury or slip-and-fall is minimal.
Know Your Management Company’s Responsibilities and Liability Policies
If you have a management company for your multi-state restaurant locations, understand their responsibilities and what they will do if something does occur on one of the properties, as well as when they will assume liability. Know the expectations between yourself and the management company.
In areas where it snows, ensure your management company has a well-thought-out plan for snow stacking placement so that it doesn’t become a hazard to customers and employees. Additionally, make sure your contractor partners have met with the store managers prior to the snow season to verify the snow stacking is in the most appropriate place. You don’t want customers stepping out of their vehicles into a snow pile.
When all snow services are included in the scope of work with your contractors and/or ESM company, the contractors will assume the liability. For example, if the contractor piled snow in the wrong place where it obstructed a walkway and someone slipped and fell, then the contractor and/or ESM company would be held liable if an accident occurred. Contractors are responsible for having the insurance needed for the work being done, which gives facility managers reassurance if there was ever an issue.
Some management companies will handle and process all insurance claims, so it is important to have them maintain your insurance policy in their database should something happen. And depending on what is included in the scope of work, ESM companies may process all liability claims for you and assume liability with the contractor.
All contractors and ESM companies have liability insurance policies to protect the customer from any issues that might occur on their property, such as slip and fall incidents. It’s standard for them to have a General Liability policy of $2 million as well as an additional Umbrella/Excess Liability policy upwards of $5 million.
Have an Effective Record-Keeping System
Slip-and-fall accidents are inevitable, so it’s critical to have an effective reporting system in-store. This could include an incident form, or some other way to keep a thorough record of what happened. Whether a customer slips and falls inside or outside, you will want to use the same form and process to keep it consistent. The location would determine who takes responsibility (exterior services management company or restaurant). It’s important to stay organized regardless of where the incident occurs.
Proper record-keeping is also crucial when submitting a liability claim to show who is at fault and give a detailed account of what happened.
Slip-and-fall prevention is an essential part of property management and maintenance that often gets overlooked. It’s important not to wait until an incident happens to repair the property — you always want to prevent them and be proactive rather than reactive.
— Jessica Schultz is risk manager with DENTCO, a provider of exterior management services to restaurants across the U.S.