Slips and Falls

Keep a Lock on Slips and Falls

Take a Proactive Approach in Protecting Staff and Guests.

According to the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), the foodservice and lodging industry is responsible for bringing in more than $7.5 billion in annual sales and generates 54 percent of the annual tourism dollars spent in Oregon. As an operator in the lodging industry, this is good news for your business! There’s no doubt that you do everything possible to effectively oversee and manage your business, but are you doing all you can do to protect your employees and guests?

With the holiday season right around the corner, your property is sure to be swinging with people. Navigating luggage and carts during this busy time is more important than ever, especially when hot beverages are being served to welcome guests and help tame the chill in the air. At any given moment, a safe situation can dramatically change. A spill on a stairway that was safe seconds earlier can quickly become a hazard. An unexpected rush creates additional obstacles for staff trying to maneuver around patrons, tight corners and holiday decorations.

So what can you do? A lot! A sound safety program and a commitment to training can help lodging operators keep their employees and patrons safe, and claims costs down. It starts with understanding where your business is vulnerable.

Implement Safe Practices
A recent Liberty Mutual Insurance study identified the top ten culprits of workplace injuries that cause a worker to miss six or more days from work. Amazingly, same-level slips and falls ranked second on the list (slightly behind overexertion) with direct costs of $7.94 billion. In fact, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report from 2009, the restaurant industry reported more than 50,000 cases of disabling work-related injuries and nearly a quarter were attributed to same-level slips, trips and falls. The core causes for most slips and falls are slippery floors, slipping on ice or snow, and tripping over things such as floor coverings, objects on floors, storage racks, and uneven or slippery surfaces.

To address these hazards, management should regularly evaluate the following for safety effectiveness and risks:

•    Floor cleaning procedures and cleaning agents
•    Amount of storage space
•    Placement of walk-off mats at transition areas
•    Floor maintenance; condition of floor tiles and other surfaces
•    Elevation changes, inside and outside
•    Drainage in food prep and dishwashing areas
•    Use of floor mats; inspect for curled edges and replacement policy
•    Number and location of floor drains around sinks, coolers, and other kitchen areas

Here are other common-sense ways to keep your employees working safely:
•    Ensure ice is immediately cleaned up in front of ice machines. Post a sign on the machine, and make squeegees readily available.
•    Use tape to color-code squeegees, brooms, mops and other cleaning equipment, and ensure that they’re stored appropriately. Employees will be more likely to clean as they work if these are easy to find.
•    Ensure the same mop is not used in both the kitchen and public areas (it spreads grease).
•    Ensure the cooking exhaust system is in good repair to prevent mists of oil in the air from settling on floors, creating grease films.
•    Ensure floor mats are flush with the floor and free of holes.
•    Instruct employees to observe walking paths before carrying items in and out of storage and kitchen areas.
•    Make sure employees wear proper non-slip footwear.

Ensure Patron Safety
Slips and falls, both inside and outside the facility, also top the list for high-cost general liability claims. One of our largest hospitality property and casualty claims in 2011 was a result of a guest that tripped over a patio table chain on a dimly lit pathway.
Lodging operators should analyze total exposures to their patrons—that is, travel paths from their car to the entrance, from the entrance to their room, from their room to the dining area, and so on. Each of these paths should be clearly marked or identified, properly designed and constructed, so that they guide the patron along the safest route of travel. Elevation changes (stairs/curbs) should be clearly identified and properly designated.

Leading the Way
In any good safety program, supervisors and managers must lead by example, every day, by establishing effective safety policies and sticking to them. The benefits of a customized, comprehensive safety program are endless. However, with or without a formal program it is essential management have the skills and resources they need to effectively manage safety. Effective safety programs allow for a more efficiently run establishment, for less risk of injuries, and for the profits to go where they belong: into the owner’s till. | COLLETTE VERSOZA, LIBERTY NORTHWEST


About Liberty Northwest
Liberty Northwest is the Northwest’s largest private workers’ compensation insurer and is a leading property and casualty company. Since 1983, Liberty Northwest has partnered with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) to provide members with insurance programs tailored to the hospitality industry’s needs. Contact your independent insurance agent or call Liberty Northwest at 800.463.6381 and see how Liberty Northwest can help your business.