Do you protect your customers from falls?

Snow, ice and freezing rain increase the chances that your customers will fall, whether they’re inside or outside your building. These sometimes serious incidents affect people, and can take a financial toll on them and the companies involved. So, what causes falls? Is your business liable? And, most importantly, what steps can you take to prevent them?

What causes falls?

Water on the floor causes a large number of falls. Daily activities like cleaning leave some areas wet and slippery.

In winter, ice increases the risks. Anyone can fall and get hurt in an icy parking lot, in the stairs of a building or on a landing.

These incidents are more likely to occur when there are cracks, potholes or other types of obstacles on the ground, or in areas with dim lighting. However, these are the types of things you can control!

Preventable accidents with a high cost

In 2019, falls were the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in Canada among all ages.

Not all falls have consequences, but they are becoming costly. In Canada, falls cost more than any other cause of injury in 2018, for a total of $10.3 billion.

What would happen if someone fell at your place of business?

If a customer trips on an obstacle on your premises and is injured in the fall, he or she can file a civil liability suit against your business.

Civil liability is a principle whereby individuals are required to pay for damage caused to others through their fault or the fault of the property, animals or people for which they are responsible.

As a business owner, you could be blamed for a fall if:

  • Your site lacks proper maintenance (e.g., an icy entrance with no salt or sand application).
  • The layout is hazardous (e.g., a staircase with no railing).
  • A known problem was not fixed after being discovered (e.g., broken flooring).

It’s worth it to be proactive and eliminate these risks so you can protect your customers, your employees and your business, too!

How to remain in control

You can adopt the following best practices inside your building to prevent falls:

  • Install non-slip flooring or mats in high-risk areas. If necessary, use staples or adhesives to secure them.
  • Clean up all types of messes right away. Otherwise, try to schedule floor cleaning outside of your peak hours. If that’s not possible, leave “wet floor” signs in areas with high traffic.
  • Fix broken landings or any flooring that could cause someone to trip.
  • Clear areas with high traffic—there should be no wires, boxes or obstacles on the floor. If you have no choice but to leave electrical wires on the floor, cover them to lessen the risk.

Take these steps outside:

  • In the winter, keep walkways and parking lots clear of snow. Apply sand or de-icing salt often.
  • Check the condition of your stairway railings and steps and make sure they are slip-resistant.
  • Make sure there is sufficient lighting around your building, keeping in mind that the sun sets early in the fall and that darkness increases the likelihood of falls. Replace any burned-out light bulbs immediately.

Your company's liability: Take other precautions

Despite your efforts, an incident could still occur. Be prepared:

  • Check whether your company's insurance policy provides adequate civil liability coverage.
  • Keep a record of salt or sand application, including dates and areas covered. In the event of a lawsuit, this document will help prove how thorough your prevention efforts were.
  • Keep an incident report form at your place of business and have any injured person and witnesses (if applicable) describe what happened.
  • If someone falls, take a photo of the premises and the shoes that person was wearing. This information will make it easier to understand what happened.

There you have it—now you know the risks associated with falls. And with a bit of planning, you’re more likely to prevent them from happening!