Avoiding slips, trips, and falls on sidewalks and other walkways
Despite being one of the most easily preventable hazards, slips, trips, and falls continue to be a leading cause of hospital visits and claims. The conditions that lead to these types of incidents are often very minor – a small liquid spill, a slight deviation in the height of a sidewalk, and so on – but damages for liability can be excessive.
It takes a mere ¼” variation in height for a sidewalk to constitute a tripping hazard. Other damages that can constitute hazards include:
- Crumbling curb edges
Damage can be caused by tree roots and other plant life, seasonal temperature fluctuations, and erosion, and can be exacerbated by the presence of conditions such as mud, water, ice, dead leaves, and so on.
To reduce risk, regularly inspect all sidewalks, as well as parking lots and any other walkways to ensure they are in good repair and free of defects. Regular inspections
should be conducted regardless of who is responsible for maintenance so that any damages can be reported to the responsible party in a timely manner and repairs can be made promptly.
Additional Best Practices:
- Check local ordinances and laws to determine your responsibilities regarding sidewalks.
- Flag any defects or hazards with highly visible paint, cones, barricades, signs, or warning tape, and effect repairs within a 30-60 day timeframe.
- Ensure any abrupt changes in elevation, such as curbs, stair edges, and ramps, are marked with highly visible paint.
- Conduct regular housekeeping to ensure any hazardous conditions are addressed promptly (applying mats, deicer, traction, etc.)
Courts generally assign liability through application of a four-point test. Keep the following information in mind when conducting inspections:
Duty of Ordinary Care
The responsible party has a duty to take the care (or actions) that a reasonable person would take to ensure that the premises are safe.
Breach of Duty
Has the responsible party done something they should not have, or not done something they should have to make the premises reasonably safe?
Damages or Injuries
Did the responsible party’s failure to exercise reasonable care in keeping the premises safe cause the individual’s damages or injuries?
Has an individual suffered damages or injuries while using or accessing the responsible party’s property?
Safe walkways are the foundation of a safe environment. For more information, please contact your broker or risk manager.