Injuries may happen inside or outside of a business. When visitors are injured on the business property, they may file lawsuits to compensate for damages. Stairs, slick floors, parking lots, merchandise displays and loading areas are all common places where accidents happen on business property. Maintaining parking lots, walkways and floors helps reduce the likelihood of accidents. However, there are several other hazard issues for all business owners to consider.
When most business owners think about floor hazards, they think of items that customers could trip over or spills. Some common hazards they do not usually consider are uneven floor surfaces, improper floor finishes, and inadequate lighting. People are often looking at merchandise as they walk through the business and are not paying attention to where they walk. If there is a slight change of slope or a crack, this could cause a customer to trip. Inadequate lighting makes it hard to see and can lead to falls. Improper floor finishes can cause customers to slip. If there are missing tiles or carpet that is stretched and loose, replace or repair the flooring immediately.
For stairs, it is important to ensure there are sturdy handrails. Most insurance companies consider stairs to be hazards if they are more than a few feet high or have more than a few risers and do not have handrails. Since some patrons may be elderly or have mobility issues, it is best to have sturdy handrails on all stairs. Some stairs are steep and have smooth surfaces. For wide or narrow stairs, it is best to install a non-slip surface. Do not use runners or decorative panels on the stairs.
Parking lots are one of the most common places where customers fall. In colder climates, make sure there is no ice in the lot during the winter. One common item business owners overlook is their downspouts that connect to gutters. If there are downspouts, make sure they do not drain onto walkways or onto the parking lot. This could result in ice buildup. Make sure snow is removed promptly. If there are cracks or potholes, have them repaired and evened out immediately. Investing in repairs is much less expensive than dealing with just one major lawsuit. A single lawsuit may cost a business millions of dollars and a tarnished reputation. Make sure parking areas have adequate lighting. If the business is in a high-crime area, install security cameras. Make sure that access to the lot is controlled with locking gates and fences.
Watch for additional hazards in the business. Make sure outlets are not accessible to small children. Avoid leaving cords lying on the floor where customers may trip on them. When businesses hire contractors or other companies to conduct repairs or provide other services, the equipment they bring may become a hazard to customers. It is best to schedule maintenance or other services on days where the business is closed to customers or after business hours whenever possible.
Construct a list of rules and guidelines for employees to use. The guide should include what hazards to watch for, who to notify about hazards and proper protocols for alerting customers about hazards that are not immediately removable. For example, a sign indicating a wet floor is a necessity for any business with a lot of foot traffic during the winter months or during a rainy spell. Think about potential hazards and any special hazards that might be specific to a certain type of business. For more information or suggestions, discuss concerns with an agent.