An observant manager sees a janitor scrubbing the office steps and floor with water and a cleaning agent. Knowing that soon dozens of employees will be descending those stairs on their way to lunch, the manager quickly locates a pair of "wet floor" signs and places them at the base and top of the stairs.
By taking that preventive action — by practicing risk management — that manager may have prevented a harmful slip and fall, possibly saving her company tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
In what reportedly was the most expensive verdict of its kind in Virginia history, a jury awarded $12.2 million to a formerly successful businesswoman who was no longer able to work due to injuries resulting from a leaky awning at the entrance to a gas station convenience store. Owners of the store admitted in depositions that they were aware of the puddle that caused the woman to slip and fall, acknowledging that her injuries could have been prevented.
According to the National Safety Council, "Slips, trips, and falls are a major cause of preventable injuries and deaths in the workplace; only motor vehicle incidents cause more worker fatalities." And, the council says, "about 2.5 million nonfatal falls" led to emergency room visits in 2013 alone, with 734,000 of those patients requiring admission.
Workplace safety company Arbill provides more numbers in its "Painful Statistics on Slips, Trips and Falls" blog post.
Don't just stand there — do something!
Falls can be divided into two basic categories: from the same level and to a lower level, such as from a ladder or platform to the ground or floor below.
Had the owners of the Virginia convenience store taken steps to prevent the costly same-level slip and fall — had they fixed the leaky awning or marked off the puddle while awaiting repairs — there's a good chance they wouldn't have been so vulnerable to a premises liability lawsuit. Either the woman would have avoided the puddle, or the jury may have determined that the owners had taken reasonable measures to prevent her slip and fall.
Here in New England, slips, trips and falls are often associated with winter ice and snow, but they can happen almost anywhere at any time, and be due to a variety of causes.
What, other than ice and puddles, are some common causes of slips, trips and falls?
- Uneven floor surfaces.
- Unsuitable floor coverings, such as torn or frayed carpeting.
- Floors slickened by water, oil, grease or food.
- Changes in levels.
- Exposed cords or cables.
Many factors can cause accidental falls, with the severity of effects ranging from pulled muscles to brain injuries. Common effects include:
- pulled muscles and stretched tendons.
- sprained and broken wrists and ankles.
- fractured clavicles or tailbones.
- spinal cord, head and brain injuries.
Of course it isn't only customers who file slip-and-fall insurance claims; employees do, too, which is why your business is required to have workers' compensation insurance. And if your business has a poor track record of workplace injuries, you know how expensive that can be.
Risk management and experience modification factor
One of the factors in determining how much you pay in workers' comp premium is your experience modification, or experience mod. The higher your mod, the more you pay in premium.
The best way to reduce your mod is through risk management. Philadelphia Insurance Companies, one of the carriers we work with at Sylvia Group, offers an excellent Slip, Trip & Fall Prevention Guidebook.
Start mitigating risk by trying to prevent falls before they happen. Good housekeeping is the most fundamental way to prevent injuries. Cleaning spills, marking wet areas, removing obstacles from walkways, securing flooring and keeping areas well-lit are just some of the ways to prevent falls and potential claims.
Many slip, trip and fall incidents go unreported because the victims are embarrassed and/or blame themselves. But, if an accident is reported, make sure you have adequate business liability insurance coverage and workers compensation coverage to protect your employees. An umbrella policy is also essential as it adds an extra level of protection, covering costs that may exceed the limits of your policy.
For information on how your business can reduce costs through risk management, contact me at Sylvia Group. Businesses throughout New England rely on us to provide custom insurance programs designed to reduce the total cost of risk and make them more attractive in the insurance marketplace. And because we're an independent agency, we can market your business to multiple companies to find the right program at the right price to meet your needs and budget.
About Jill White and Sylvia Group
Licensed as a Massachusetts Producer for property and casualty, life, and accident and health insurance, and certified as a Construction Risk Insurance Specialist (CRIS) and Workers Compensation Advisor (CWCA), Jill White combines insurance training with knowledge gained from 15 years in the financial services industry to develop a thorough understanding of each client’s unique business needs and challenges. Devoted to protecting her clients, their businesses and everything they’ve worked hard to achieve, Jill conducts a full and thorough review of each business to ensure clients understand exactly what they’re paying for: which risks and exposures are covered, which aren’t and what gaps may exist. She then explores all available options and works with the client to design the insurance program that best fits the business’ strategic plans and goals.
Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurance, benefits and financial planning programs. We’re a locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence.