Business premises aren’t always safe. In fact, they can be downright dangerous. Productive activities increase risks above and beyond home environments.
For this reason, business owners must be vigilant. You can’t take a backseat.
In this post, we take a look at what premises liability is, and how you can prevent it. Instances in which employees become sick or injure themselves because of your place of work can set you back. If you don’t have the right cover (or you fail to follow insurers’ protocols), you can wind up in serious financial trouble.
Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t understand just how culpable they are. They don’t realise that they are responsible for practically every injury and illness that occurs on their premises.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is legal responsibility for anyone who steps inside of it. That could be employees, customers, clients, senior managers – even owners. Even people trespassing on your property have protection under premises liability laws.
Interestingly, it is usually the company that needs to bear the burden, not the landlord renting the unit. That’s because the owner of the building generally doesn’t determine its function. As the provider of capital, they take a step back and allow the business operator to adapt the premises to their needs.
Take Elon’s Musk’s car factory in Fremont, California. That building is good for just about anything, from warehousing to rocket production. According to liability law, Mr. Musk decides precisely how he will use the building and, therefore, he becomes responsible for any injuries that occur.
Landlords have relatively few responsibilities. They must make sure that the building will continue standing and doesn’t, in itself, pose any hazards. But they are not responsible for slips, trips and falls that occur on the premises. That’s a problem for the renting firm.
Of course, your business might own the property in which it operates. In that case, you’re fully liable, on the hook for any expenses relating to injury, including those caused by the building itself.
You can, in some cases, fight premises liability cases. However, the cost of doing so is often tremendous. Lawyer fees are high, so the best policy in most situations is prevention. What’s more, if somebody does seriously hurt themselves on your property, it can damage your reputation. And while insurance companies will cover legal costs, they don’t cover the price of reputational damage. That’s yours to bear.
With that said, the best approach is prevention. You need to do whatever it takes to keep people safe on your property and prevent injuries. But how, exactly?
The first thing you’ll want to do is provide warnings whenever you can. For instance, if a colleague is mopping the floor, put up a wet floor sign. If you don’t have any of these at your premises yet, order half a dozen. They’re cheap and can protect you against liability.
You can also verbally warn people. Some businesses, for instance, will have a colleague stand over a spill until clean-up teams arrive. This way, they protect customers.
You can also include warnings in certain places. For instance, you can plaster warning signs over all private areas of your premises, telling people to keep out. Besides offering basic security, warning signs also alert people on your premises to potential dangers.
Everyone in your organisation should regularly inspect your premises for signs of degradation, not just managers or safety officials. That’s because each person has a stake in maintaining a safe working environment.
Constant vigilance sounds like it might impact productivity – and occasionally, it will. However, when staff are aware of their surroundings, they generally notice problems faster.
Generally, getting employees to spend a little time reporting issues they find has substantial rewards. Big payouts are far less likely when you nip problems in the bud before they truly emerge.
Lastly, if you do notice that something’s not quite right, you should correct the issue quickly. Don’t allow it to fester, putting people at risk. Eventually, someone is going to get hurt.
Again, teach employees to be more proactive. Encourage them to clean up a spill if they see one, not leave it to other members of the team. Likewise, if there is an issue with snow and ice on walkways, put policies in place so that people know precisely what to do in these situations.
Correcting problems quickly should be your top priority. If you fail to do so, you are putting your enterprise at a much higher risk.
You also need to monitor your premises continually for potential hazards. Gas monitors, for instance, are essential in virtually all premises. These tell you whether your appliances are leaking potentially dangerous gases into the environment.
Also, be sure to set up basic CCTV so that you can see whenever anyone unauthorised enters the premises. Policies like this not only protect your stock, but also your people as well.
Failing to perform adequate maintenance work on your premises is another source of problems. As a firm, it is your legal responsibility to reduce or eliminate hazards to the extent that is possible using current technology.
Performing maintenance on your buildings helps to reduce property defects that might cause injury. For instance, it allows you to fix faulty spotlights that aren’t providing your colleagues with sufficient illumination. You should also focus on making all areas of your premises safe. Trip hazards or dangerous machinery can lead to injury which affects the life of people who work for you.
Liability is a serious issue for businesses. Companies that don’t take steps to mitigate it can fail, even if they have a thriving customer base. Loss of money through compensation and legal fees soon mounts up.
Getting liability insurance, though, only offers partial protection. The main concern should be preventing injuries in the first place. When people get hurt at your place of work, it reflects poorly on your brand, even if you are in the right.