What is liability? Answering this question is essential for anyone who owns commercial property. It is the responsibility of all property owners to make sure that their store or facility is safe for all employees and visitors. Unfortunately, accidents happen and the result is thousands of injuries each year due to slips and falls. Most of these accidents occur on stairs and slippery floors and fall under the category premises liability. Please note: The author of this work is not a licensed legal professional. Readers must remember to consult a licensed legal professional to better understand local laws, statutes, and application of law.
Liability 101: Basic Principles
Laws vary from state to state, but all states require that the plaintiff prove one of the following in order for property owners to be considered at fault:
- Omission The commercial property owner or employee must have known the dangerous conditions existed and have done nothing to remedy them.
- Standard of Reason The commercial property owner or employee knew about the dangerous condition yet did nothing to prevent it.
Businesses can be liable when accidents are caused by wet floors and that’s why it is essential for property owners to take preventative measures when answering the “what is liability” question. Luckily there are some concrete steps that you can take to protect your patrons and reduce the chance that you will be involved in a property owner liability case.
1. Close off areas with wet floors and use adequate signage.
Signs help to alert visitors of certain dangers. One option is to display Safety Signs Message Mats which are made with state-of-the-art digital printers. They can be safely laundered and have a 100% Nitrile runner backing to stay firmly in place. The other option is to set up Crowd Control Stanchions with attached Sign Frames that are available in standard and heavy-duty versions.
2. Keep out rain, snow, and ice.
Protect entranceways and block debris and moisture with floor mats, specifically Entrance Mats and Recessed Mats. The Rubber Scraper Mat is an entrance mat that uses raised rubber cleats to clean and traps debris below the surface before it can get inside your building. It has a 100% Nitrile rubber construction. The Berber Supreme Recessed Mat protects against dirt and moisture accumulation and comes in a choice of two thicknesses.
When the weather is rainy, you can prevent wet umbrellas from tracking in water by providing an umbrella stand. Both the Standard and Supreme Wet Umbrella Stands hold clear plastic bags for visitors to use when they are carrying a wet umbrella.
3. Install quality commercial-grade floor mats and other non-skid products.
There are a variety of top quality matting systems available for all types of facilities. The Recessed Grill Pedimat has an all-metal construction and a 7/16” deep chamber to trap both liquid and solid debris that can lead to accidents. The Waterhog Classic Entrance Mat is the leading industry mat because it aggressively wipes moisture and dirt from shoes. It also has a special Water Dam border to capture up to 1.5 gallons of water per square yard.
4. Cover all floor areas, including bathrooms.
Water can accumulate in bathrooms, causing a floor hazard. The Urinal Bathroom Mat and Toilet Bathroom Mat keep floors dry and have an anti-slip backing. The Sink Mat absorbs water that can accumulate from hand washing. Together these products protect visitors from bathroom dangers.
5. Protect stairways.
Many slip and fall accidents occur on stairways. It is important to apply Stair Treads to all stair stepping surfaces to increase traction and control debris in order to prevent such accidents. When shopping online, facility managers are encouraged to look for quality rubber, vinyl, and aluminum that comply with International benchmarks and they come in a variety of colors to match any style.
Obviously it is impossible to prevent all potential accidents. However, by learning about what is liability and taking precautions you can protect your business from becoming involved in a property owner liability lawsuit.