Injuries on business premises: safety attitude key to risk management
Published 28 September 2021
High cost damages settlements for injuries incurred on business premises serve as a critical reminder that workplace and public safety should always be a focus of attention. From retail aisles to open plan offices, to a warehouse carpark, liability for safety is the responsibility of almost every type of business. Here’s what businesses need to know about protecting themselves.
Damages litigation is common practice in Australia, supported by the services of compensation lawyers and online resources guiding people on how to lodge claims. Both members of the public and workers have been involved with payouts in the millions. Business owners need to take preventative safety measures to reduce these damage risks, and should also maintain insurance that addresses the costs involved in a legal damages case.
Workers’ compensation is designed to cover the costs involved in employee injury and rehabilitation, while public liability insurance comes into play when members of the public are hurt and incur personal injury, or sustain damage to their property while on a business’s premises.
If your business premises involve public access you have a legal obligation to maintain safety. A business can be held liable if you are aware of a hazard and haven’t taken steps to eliminate it or your activities create safety issues. Some types of retailers also may requires government issued operating licences.
Insurer scrutiny of business attitudes to safety risk management
Insurers are aware that some types of businesses involve the risk of exposure to injury. In the past underwriters have focused on induction training and toolbox safety meetings in assessing a business’s risk management measures – but accidents are continuing to happen. Investigations into these accidents have revealed that in many cases risk controls are non-existent, ineffectual or that safety protocols and training are insufficient.
As a result insurance underwriters assessing workplace injury risk management are turning their focus to how risk awareness and safety are embedded in an organisation’s culture, evidenced through factors such as responsiveness to risky conditions or attitudes and responses to near misses.
They will be looking for evidence of a safety management plan that is effectively implemented and monitored, along with engagement of managers and staff in observing safety practices and reporting issues. Your safety management plan should also include a consistent approach to processes for recognising and responding to hazards, monitoring equipment where required and protocols for staff training and reinforcement of the safety messaging.
Prevention the first rule for avoiding damages cases
Trips, slips and falls account for more than 20% of injuries on business premises, according to Safe Work Australia, with more than half due to environmental factors – meaning the setting itself. This highlights the need for care and maintenance of floor surfaces and appropriate response to hazardous conditions such as
• liquids spilled onto the floor
• aisle obstructions
• faulty staircases, elevators, and escalators
• merchandise falling from shelves
• jagged shelves and showcases
• mechanical door breakdowns
• insufficient lighting
• changes in floor levels, such as thresholds, doorsteps or ramps
• obstacles in foot traffic areas.
Risk minimisation should include careful choice of floor surfaces, adequate lighting, keeping access ways clear and unobstructed, the provision of separate storage areas, secure stacking of goods to minimise tripping hazard and safety visuals like clearly marking the edges of steps or any changes in height levels. Should a spill or such occur, action to reduce risks including cleaning up of spills, and using signage to warn of wet or slippery areas should be mandatory.
Don’t overlook behind the scenes risks in your business
Duty of care responsibility isn’t confined to retail or business areas. This also applies to your parking facilities, rest rooms and deliveries and storage areas.
In risk management, operations and logistics are an important consideration which need constant re-evaluation. For example, a floor design and storage arrangements that may have been fit for purpose initially can become compromised over time, such as when storage needs grow and overtake what was previously walk ways in a floorplan, causing potential issues. Maintaining business environments and reviewing risks regularly over time is crucial.
Work with Gallagher experts to improve your business’s safety
Contact us to find out more about reviewing your business safety and hazard prevention, and workplace health and safety. The Gallagher Workplace Health & Safety offering encompasses everything from safety mentoring and training through to health and wellness programs, hazard and risk profiling, and incident management and investigation.
Connect with us to find out more about the Gallagher Workplace Risk team.
Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective.