Slip and fall accidents in the retail environment are scarier than a horror movie for business owners. In fact, slip and fall claims are the horror movie, because, by law, businesses that welcome the public onto their premises have a legal duty to keep them “reasonably” safe.
Legal website AllLaw.com explains, “Whether it’s a ‘big box’ nationwide chain like Walmart or Target, a grocery chain like Kroger, Albertson’s or Safeway, or a local independent retailer, any business that invites the public onto its premises is obligated to take certain steps to keep customers out of harm’s way. Customers who are injured in slip and fall accidents on store premises may have a valid legal claim against the business.”
And claim they do: slip and fall claims cost American businesses an estimated $16 billion annually, according to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. That’s a staggering sum.
Injuries, Suffering, and Proving Liability
Why do slip and fall incidents happen? It’s not always a wet floor. Other possibilities include:
- Icy parking lot or entryway
- Floor mats
- Poor in-store lighting
- Haphazard item display that tumbles into customer’s path
- Shopping cart rolling into customer
- Freshly waxed floors
While the cases that make the news can make it seem as though the injured parties always win big, that’s not necessarily true. Despite a consumer’s injuries, under due process, a store is innocent until proven guilty.
Here are a few notable cases involving retail stores:
- Employee negligence: A woman who slipped in a puddle of liquid soap at Costco, shattering her kneecap, reported that several employees had passed by the area previously and ignored the spill. The jury sided with the customer, awarding her $400,000 for medical expenses, pain and suffering.
- Hidden danger. At Home Depot, a woman’s shopping cart tipped over, injuring her knee, after it hit a manhole cover that was obscured by water. While the store argued the danger was open and obvious, the jury disagreed, awarding the injured customer $1 million in damages. (Although the award was subsequently remanded for reevaluation, the slip and fall incident remains an important example of business liability.)
- All wet. A man who slipped on some liquid at Walgreen’s claimed it was on the floor; the store maintained the man brought the wetness in from walking in snow. The customer lost the case and subsequent appeal, demonstrating that a slip doesn’t automatically equal a win for the injured party.
OSHA’s Revised Slip, Trip and Fall Rule
Because more than 17 percent of all disabling occupational injuries result from falls most of which could have been prevented the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised and re-launched the slip, trip and fall rule.
The new rule, which took effect January 17, 2017, “increases workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries, injuries”.
OSHA estimates the revised ruling will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries each year. The slip, trip and fall rule will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million worksites nationwide.
How A Spill Program Helps
A spill program benefits your retail store(s) and demonstrates your due diligence. As a Best Management Practice, a spill prevention plan will reduce your overhead and boost productivity, because you won’t be losing inventory or wasting valuable time and resources dealing with spill emergencies.
To create a SPCC plan for your company:
Research, Review, Assess
- Conduct a materials inventory throughout the facility
- Evaluate past spills and leaks
- Identify non-storm water discharges
- Collect and evaluate storm water
- Summarize the findings of this assessment
Prepare Your Spill Prevention Plan
- Facility description, activities, chemicals used
- Site plan with chemical storage locations, storm drains, collection basins. List Impact Absorbents spill prevention and spill clean up products on hand, or that need to be ordered.
- Notification procedures in the event of a spill. Include contact information for key staff and appropriate regulatory agencies.
- Procedures for spill clean up
- Designate employee to oversee spill clean up
- Train staff in basic spill control and spill clean up procedures.
- Summarize and Post Plan at Appropriate Locations (e.g., cafeteria, hazmat areas with spill potential, meeting rooms, etc.)
Implement Spill Prevention Plan
- Begin spill clean ups using environmentally safe products from Impact Absorbents
- In fueling areas, use small bags for convenience and small drums of absorbent for storage. Keep emergency spill containment and spill clean up kits at the facility site.
- Review the Spill Prevention Plan at least annually and after any spill to see how effective it is and how it might be improved, as well as the whenever a new material is introduced to the facility.