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The Hidden Impact of Slips and Falls in the Workplace

Whether you believe in the debate of whether climate change is real, there is no denying that winter weather these past couple of years have come earlier than some would prefer. The results are wild swings in temperatures and an increase in winter-related precipitation. The results are an increase of road related headaches and traffic accidents, significant weather travel delays, and an unrelenting complaint of those wishing that spring will come again, soon.


Workplace accidents increase in scope and severity with the increase of winter weather. While some of the injuries may not be as costly, the frequency of accidents related to slip and falls in the workplace increase during the late Fall through winter months which could have adverse effects on a company’s insurance premiums, staffing productivity, as well as having long term legal impacts on the resolution of some worker’s compensation claims, as well as general liability claims filed by visitors of the property.


According to the National Safety Council between the years 2016 – 2017, slip and fall claims feature above average workers compensation claim costs[1]. With an average of $46,592 per claim, slip and fall claims feature a combination of lost time and potential permanent partial disability claims filed, an extended period of time of employees on modified duty, and claims stuck in a legal system that in most states can take up to six months to resolve resulting in higher litigation fees. The CDC that as of 2017, 26% of non-fatal injuries were related to slip and falls. Regardless of the nature of operations conducting in the scope of business, the chances of a slip and fall occurrence is relatively high.


Some of the more common accidents that result in a slip and fall include:

· Traumatic Brain/Head Injuries

· Spinal/Lumbar Injuries

· Broken Hips or Pelvis

· Cervical injuries (shoulders/upper back)

· Fracture of limbs

· Torn Ligaments and Muscles


General liability claims can arise from slip and fall claims filed by non-employees such as customers, vendors, or visitors to the property. These claims occur due to events that occur on the grounds, including the parking lots that are owned or to be maintained by the property owner. Nursing homes, grocery stores, hospitals, and other high traffic businesses are prone to these type of incidents as some view these locales as prime sources of filing claims against the property.


To protect against the potential of loss, employers should be mindful of the potential impact of slip and fall claims filed against their organization by ensuring the following:


· Education – Although companies indicate in their policies that employees should wear the proper attire, including shoes, an additional education or reminder should be provided yearly before the probability of slip and falls increase during the winter months.

o Such annual education and review could qualify for a safety reduction under some states’ worker’s compensation statutes and could even be grounds for denial.


· Review snow removal contracts and certificate of liability insurance – This ensures that the company is aware of the contractual agreement between the property and the snow removal service to ensure services occur within an agreed time frame of inclement weather. Such review should also include the certificate of liability insurance to ensure that there is adequate coverage.


· Point of contact – Notify staff and visitors an appropriate contact person in the event that the parking lot or entrances and walkways are deteriorating to the point where someone should be notified to contact the snow removal services. This is critical for hospitals and long term care operations.


· Inspecting the grounds regularly – Inspecting the grounds and parking lots before the winter months and after a significant snow or ice event will ensure that you are mitigating the risk associated with slip and falls in the parking lots. This includes observing and patching potholes, ensuring walkways to and from the property, as well as emergency exits are safe and clear from obstructions, and that curbs leading from the parking lot to the sidewalk are not covered in ice.


Protecting yourself from risk related events are as important to the organization’s bottom line as the operations itself. Those who feature a safer culture lowers the potential of high claim costs, lost productivity, and increased injuries that could be OSHA reportable. For some industries, particularly in the healthcare industry, slip and fall incidents can quickly increase OSHA recordable events that could increase the likelihood of an OSHA inspection.


Dr. Terrence Duncan has over fifteen years of worker’s compensation and enterprise risk management experience. He has published two books on leadership and personal development, as well as published in several academic and international journals and book chapters. He has spoken in esteemed academic conferences and specializes in providing consulting services to businesses in risk management, human resources, strategic leadership, and change management. For additional information for services offered or questions about the content of this article, the contact information is drterenceduncan@gmail.com. More information about Dr. Duncan can be found on www.drtduncan.com

[1] Worker’s Compensation Costs – National Safety Council, https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/costs/workers-compensation-costs/

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