Feb 09, 2011
By J. Travers Hartnett CEBS, BC-HSP
The best way to control slip and fall claims is to create a common sense safety plan and motivate your staff and employees follow it. Your safety program should include an analysis of all the common area you have at your Association. This will include:
* Identifying the manufacturer and type of floors you have in each area and making sure the floor product is appropriate for where it is located.
* Review the maintenance procedures you have for all floors, staircases, walkways, parking lots etc.
* Regular common area inspections for adequate lighting and damage to all walking surfaces.
* responding quickly to investigate all reports of accidents, incidents and maintenance
All walking surfaces need to be maintained on a regular basis. That’s why it is important that the maintenance procedures you use prevent rather than cause slip and fall accidents. Just as an automobile manufacturer publishes standards for the type of gasoline and lubricants to be used in their automobiles, flooring comes with detailed specifications for the installation, use and maintenance of the product.
If you have installed the wrong flooring product or find you are maintaining it with the wrong cleaning fluids, consider yourself lucky. If someone had fallen in that area you likely would have been exposed to a serious lawsuit. Even the best cleaning and finishing materials can be dangerous when inappropriately applied. To protect your owners, guests and employees floor maintenance should always be performed in the exact manner specified. Floor waxing and buffing is not recommended for a great many floor surfaces.
We suggest you schedule your maintenance during non-peak hours, preferably with the use of caution signs and attendants posted to protect owners and guests passing by. Bad weather procedures are also very important. Many associations require their maintenance personnel to place no slip mats at all entrance doors at the first sign of rain. Safety specialists recommend all entry mats should be constructed around were or cocoa fiber, to help to remove water and dirt from shoes. The color of the mat should contrast with the color of the floor and the mat edges tapered down to the floor for a smooth transition. Under severe weather conditions you may have to post a staff member at each entrance to warn employees, owners and guests entering the building about an increased slipping hazard and to manually mop up any excess water that may accumulate.
Your employees training program should also include your slip and fall safety program. Make sure your employees and outside staff wear shoes that are compatible with the floors they work in. In the event that you do receive a report of a slip and fall, it is critical that you immediately investigate the incident by interviewing all witnesses and taking numerous photographs of the area in question. All security tapes and recording that day should be retained under lock and key. If the cause of the accident was a movable item the Association should take possession of the part and lock it as well. And as with any claim notice, the Association should be careful never assume any liability for a slip or fall.
J. Travers Hartnett is Editor of CondoExec, a publication of Travers Hartnett PA. . Travers earned a BS in Economics with a Major in Business from the State University of New York, a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation from the International Institute and Wharton School and is a Board Certified – Human Services Practitioner specializing in community association services. He has more than 24 years of commercial insurance experience including major account sales, marketing, underwriting & risk consulting. He has been President of his residential condominium association for 4 years and is the owner of Travers Hartnett PA, an insurance agency providing risk management services exclusively to community associations.