Slips, Trips and Falls: A Frequent Liability Exposure
Slips, trips and falls are one of the major causes of injury in the workplace. For the daycare or Headstart center, it is particularly frequent and can happen to anyone: children, parents, employees, contractors, etc. Often the resulting injuries are minor, but they can be nearly catastrophic. Imagine the following scenario: A new employee wet mops a floor in a room at the end of the day where children’s backpacks are stored. Parents are arriving to pick up their children and take them home. A mother, carrying a young child in her arms, walks back to the room to retrieve the child’s backpack. The light in the room is off and the room is only partially lit. The mother, unaware the floor is wet, slips and falls while carrying the child in her arms. While the mother was not seriously injured, the child sustained serious head and brain injuries. The parents sue the center for damages and medical expenses, claiming the center was negligent for the wet floor and for not properly training the new employee to mop the floor at a time when traffic in the room was minimal. The resulting claim and lawsuit goes into the millions of dollars for the permanent damage and ongoing medical expenses for the child. While slips, trips and falls can occur in many different situations and sometimes the person tripping and falling is negligent, there are ways to be proactive in reducing the risk. Being proactive may not prevent a claim or lawsuit against, but it might help prove you were not negligent. Here are some common sense tips to reduce slips, trips and falls:
- Choose the appropriate floor covering for the room and activity anticipated. Sometimes smoother surfaces are best for dancing, running or other high movement activities. Sometimes slip-resistant floor coverings are best in areas where spills might occur. Assess the flooring in your center and, where possible, take the right measures to install and maintain the best and safest floor covering.
- Assess the best low traffic times for wet-mopping areas. Train all employees as a part of orientation on when, where, how and what to mop up. Always require appropriate warning signs whenever a location is wet-mopped.
- Ensure every employee knows to identify, report and correct, if necessary, any situation where slips, trips and falls might occur.
- Keep objects and items out of the way of high traffic areas. Reduce clutter and furniture as much as possible to facilitate easy and safe access in, out and through the various areas of your center.
- Require the safe use of appropriate step-ladders and other stable platforms.
- Only allow appropriate licensed, insured and bonded contractors to perform repairs or activities requiring the use of ladders to reach particularly high places.
- Ensure children refrain from climbing on objects other than those made specifically for children to climb on.
- Pay special attention to bathrooms, kitchens, cafeterias, doorways and building entrance areas where liquids might accumulate from normal activity or plumbing breakdowns.
- Use extra caution and measures during periods of rainy or winter weather of snow and ice. Ensure outdoor areas in the parking lots, entrance areas, etc., are treated to melt and dry rain, ice and/or snow.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to make your center safe to move about, in and out!