It is common knowledge that STF claims are the most common in retail stores among customers but according to the CDC Slips, trips, and falls are the third most common type of lost-work days injuries in retail. For GB’s book of business, employee STF claims cost are on the rise due to the percentage of those who are proceeding with litigation moving from 8% in 2014 to 11% in 2020. In terms of cost, litigated STF claims cost 3-4 times the average claim cost at 36 months maturity for both WC and GL claims.
What are Root Causes of Slips, Trips, and Falls?
Slips, trips, and falls have different causes. By identifying common causes, you can improve accident documentation and endeavour to make your premises safer.
Slips occur when a person loses control of their movements due to either traction from the flooring due to uneven surface, defects or type of surface, or from spilled or tracked in liquids such as oil, ice, or any type of moisture that is on the ground. Trips occur when an object or surface strikes a foot or leg, causing the person to lose their balance. Common causes of trips include surface defects such as torn carpet, uneven surfaces, and potholes. These may also occur from objects or obstructions, including anything from pallets, shopping carts, or merchandise to fallen signage. Either a slip or trip can result in a fall and occurs when a person lands on the ground. While injury can occur with a slip or a trip, when there is a fall, this will likely lead to a more severe injury, especially in the case of stairs or ladders. Defective ladders or poor lighting may also be a contributing cause of a fall.
What Documentation is Important?
Most companies have their own procedure for documenting workplace injuries. If yours doesn’t, you can download step-by-step guides to ensure you follow the investigation in the best way. Here are some key steps for good documentation:
- Identify the victim. Was it an employee? Or was it a visitor, contractor, customer, or pedestrian who was outside of your facility?
- Collect information which will determine the root cause of the accident. The big three: type of footwear, walking surface, and the contaminant.
- Gather maintenance records including sweep logs and cleaning schedules
- Establish what third parties may be involved or responsible for the incident and put them on notice
- Inspect and secure ladders or other equipment that was used
- Take photos of the accident scene and surrounding area
- Secure security videos
- Obtain statements from the victim and all pre and post witnesses
What’s the Value in Witness Statements?
While forms of proof, such as video and images, are integral to records management, witness statements provide documentation that a video or camera may not be able to capture. Witnesses often are hard to track down after the accident date and even when they are, they may not recall the incident as clearly as they would right after the accident occurred so timing is critical.
Witnesses can include anyone who saw what happened before or after the accident. The most credible witness statements are from those who don’t have an interest in the outcome of the claim. Witnesses provide essential information about the scene, such as how the victim was moving and if they were engaging in distracting activities, such as texting or talking to someone else prior to the incident. For WC claims, witnesses may have information about a worker outside of the actual accident itself. The worker, for example, may have told their colleagues that they’re on medication or didn’t sleep well the night before, which can set the direction for the investigation.
Witness statements can be written or recorded with the witness's permission and should include these core elements:
- Witness contact information
- Location where the statement was taken
- Date of the statement and time
- Name of the person taking the statement
- Witness’s recollection of the events
What’s the Best Way to Pull It All Together?
After you document the accident, make sure you exercise proper record maintenance. Keep these records with similar complaints or previous incidents.
Keep documentation of all occurrences by date. Make sure you identify who was the victim and how they’re affiliated with your company (such as an employee, a contractor, or customer). Mention any training and whether or not the investigation demonstrated that store protocols and safety measures were followed. Save your records digitally and make sure you back up these files. Put them under specific file names so you can refer to them easily.
Lastly, compile a report of findings to include the accident details as well as any proof and witness statements. From here, you can easily refer to these documents and submit them in court in case litigation is pursued.
As litigation is on the rise for slips, trips, and fall incidents, documentation has taken on greater importance to help defend these claims, to improve the safety of your premises, and loss prevention efforts.
For more information on how GB can assist your organization, contact an expert today.
Mary McGurn has 30 + years of industry experience and leads the Retail Practice at GB. You can find her on LinkedIn.