Slip, trip and fall claim costs are increasing. They’re currently the leading source of loss, which is presenting a growing problem that affects property owners and managers across all industries.
According to The Hartford’s data, the average cost of a slip, trip and fall claim increased by 25% over the past four years. These kinds of claims are the leading source of incurred loss dollars for general liability premises across all industries, and they’re one of the most common type of claims that property owners face, according to Rob Gaus, executive technical consultant for the Risk Engineering team at The Hartford.
“Risk management isn’t easy when it comes to slips, trips and falls,” Gaus said. “If it were, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Gaus added that he believes property owners and managers can work with insurers, like The Hartford, to create a slip, trip and fall prevention plan to help protect themselves from these types of claims.
“There are things that insurance companies can do to help property owners and managers,” Gaus explained. “We’re using data intelligently and better than we ever have to really offer specialized solutions for different industries.”
What Causes Slips, Trips and Falls?
One of the reasons why risk management is challenging is because many things can cause a slip, trip or fall. Whether it’s a wet floor, cables or cords on the ground or an uneven surface, finding and addressing slip, trip and fall hazards requires time and effort.
Slips happen when a person loses their balance due to a loss of friction.1 This can be due to things like:
- Wet surfaces
Trips occur when a person’s foot hits an object and their momentum throws them off balance.2 Trip hazards include:
- Wires on the ground
- Not paying attention when walking
Falls can happen after slipping, tripping or losing balance. They’re the cause of more workplace fatalities than any other reason.3
Why Is Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls Difficult?
Identifying every possible cause for a slip, trip and fall at a business and making changes takes time, resources and money. Every business is different and likely requires a unique risk management plan, which is why partnering with an experienced insurer, like The Hartford, is important.
There’s also a geographical issue. Each state may have their own laws that determine who’s liable for a slip, trip or fall claim. So, it’s important for property owners to understand where the liability risk is, according to Rob Sullivan, industry lead for The Hartford’s Real Estate practice.
For example, New York City changed its codes to transfer liability for sidewalk maintenance to property owners, with a few exceptions.4 This means property owners are liable for damages if there’s a slip, trip or fall. Since the change, there’s been an increase in claims and lawsuits, Sullivan said. These claims frequently cost more than $100,000.
“Laws can vary by state, but in general, a property owner remains liable for a person who gets injured on their premises, even if it’s the result of the negligence of a third-party vendor, like a snow plowing contractor. So, it’s important to get indemnity and defense provisions in contracts with anyone who does maintenance or repair work on your property. Verifying that the contractor has appropriate insurance is also critical to effective risk transfer,” Sullivan explained. “This same approach should be followed with sidewalks that you’re responsible for under local law, even if you’re not the property owner.”
Data: A ‘Game Changer’ in Helping To Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls
Slip, trip and fall claims have been an industry-wide issue for a long time, Gaus said. Although solving the problem has been difficult, Gaus said he believes The Hartford is doing a good job to help reduce these kinds of claims. And that’s mainly due to data analytics.
“We’re a very data-centric organization and insurer,” Gaus explained. “Using the claims data has been a game changer. We’re not blinded by the numbers, we’re overlaying that information with our experience to really drive meaningful change.”
The Hartford’s data can identify the types of businesses where slip, trip and fall claims commonly happen. From there, the insurer can work with business owners to develop a slip, trip and fall risk management strategy.
“We went on a journey to find these sub-classes and the data really showed us slips, trips and falls do happen a lot and where they’re happening,” Sullivan said. “We can take this data and go into real estate properties, office buildings, industrial warehouses or shopping centers to work with owners to try to reduce their risks.”
A Slip, Trip and Fall Success Story
With the use of data, The Hartford identified a customer in New York that had a number of workers’ compensation insurance (WC insurance) and general liability insurance claims related to slips, trips and falls. Most of these claims were due to snow and ice and resulted in over $675,000 in losses.
The Hartford’s Risk Engineering team partnered with the company to develop a plan to address the causes of slips, trips and falls. It included:
- Loss analyses to identify opportunities
- Targeted hazard assessments
- Development of a formalized snow removal plan
- Contractual risk transfer
- Property owner and snow removal contractor consultations
- Safety program reviews
The company implemented eight recommendations to try and reduce the snow and ice fall claims. This led to a 41% reduction in claim frequency and an estimated loss avoidance of $419,000.
“A great slip, trip and fall safety management system is multi-faceted,” Gaus explained. “In addition to creating a strategy and plan, you’re looking at other factors that can have a meaningful impact, like contractual risk transfers, focused inspections and audits and prevention through design concepts. At the heart of all of this is proactive leadership. All of these things work together to create safer workplaces and environments.”
Prevention Through Design
Prevention through design (PTD) applies methods to reduce slip, trip and fall risks early in the design process. Paying attention to design elements early in the process is the least expensive and most effective risk management tool for mitigating fall hazards.
The PTD process takes time and requires collaboration from:
- Risk managers
- Safety staff
When going through this process, the goal is to create a safer environment for pedestrians, staff and guests. Some key areas to look at include:
- Equipment: Pay attention to where equipment and machinery get placed and how workers use them. Avoiding fluid or debris from reaching a walkway can help prevent slips, trips or falls.
- Walkways and walking areas: Flooring materials with the best slip resistance for the different conditions it’ll be subjected to is essential. It’s also a good idea to minimize surface material transitions to avoid trip hazards. Don’t forget about sufficient lighting to help people see where they’re walking.
- Special features: Consider placing mechanical systems to support temporary events and structures.
Don’t forget about installing cameras, which can provide critical information related to a slip, trip and fall, according to Todd McMillan, assistant vice president of claims in The Hartford’s major case liability business. McMillan said The Hartford works with business and property owners to educate them on the importance of video cameras.
“Security cameras can play a role in the investigation of slips, trips and falls,” McMillan explained. “If there’s a claim, then we’re trying to figure out what happened. Typically, unless there is a witness, all that we have to go on is what the claimant or plaintiff says happened. If we have video footage it can be used as part of our defense against liability.”
Create a Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention Program
One of the most important things that property owners and business owners can do to help reduce slips, trips and falls is to have a prevention program, according to McMillan.
A slip, trip and fall prevention program has many benefits to help your business, including:
- Reducing the potential for slip, trip and fall incidents that can impact your business operations
- Demonstrating your business is proactive and actively engaging in the prevention of hazards
- Establishing a standardized approach to preventing incidents
“Documentation plays an important part in protecting property owners from claims of slips, trips and falls,” McMillan said. “There should be immediate documentation of an incident and a statement from the injured party. They should also document what they’re doing to secure their premises and note interactions with vendors.”
If your business doesn’t have a slip, trip and fall prevention program, it’s not too late to create one. Key areas you’ll want to include in your program are:
- Contract risk management
- Architectural considerations
- Assessment of physical building
- Janitorial policies and operating procedures
- Weather or spill response procedures
- Notification and technology solutions
- Incident reporting
- Corrective preventative action
- Customer incident reporting
Industry Experience and Specialization is Key To Helping Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls
Although reducing claims of slips, trips and falls is beneficial to insurers, it’s not the driving motivator for The Hartford, Sullivan said.
“It’s not just a rate thing. We’re proactive at the customer level and really trying to identify what the drivers of claims are,” he explained. “We partner with agents, brokers and customers to really provide education and a proactive analysis of trends.”
The Hartford knows how important it is to understand the risks that different industries face. Whether it’s the hazards contributing to slip, trip and fall incidents or local laws related to property management and liability, we can provide specialized solutions to help improve claim outcomes. Conozca más sobre nuestros large business insurance solutions and risk engineering team and see how it can help your business.
1, 2, 3 OSHA, “Slips, Trips & Falls Handout for Safety Committee Meetings”
4 New York City Department of Transportation, “New York City Administrative Code Sidewalk Rules”
La información proporcionada en estos materiales brinda información general y de asesoría. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) will be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of January 2022.