For businesses, risk reduction is a huge factor in long-term success and viability. In order to avoid lawsuits, settlements, and bad PR, today’s companies have to make sure their premises – including stores, offices, and parking lots – are as safe as they can be.
Keeping business premises safe
We live in a litigious society where billions of dollars are spent annually on lawsuits, legal fees, and legal proceedings. Billions more are spent on settlements – most of which comes out of the pockets of businesses and their owners.
Fortunately, there are several proactive steps businesses can take to reduce risk in key areas. Smart organizations are especially careful to reduce the risk of premises liability cases. They do so through:
1. Smart store layout
For retailers, store layout and design are important elements in reducing liability. The more purposeful you are in establishing and maintaining a safe setup, the less likely it is that an issue will come about. And if there is some sort of injury or safety issue, you’ll the ability to limit your liability through clear documentation of a commitment to limiting risk.
Take something simple like sweeping floors. Creating a periodic sweep schedule where employees go through and proactively look for issues (such as spilled drinks or trash) can prevent small problems from becoming big issues.
“Keep a record of these sweep schedules. In the future this shows an effort to find and clear possible problems and hazards,” John Gregory writes for PropertyCasualty360. “Should the matter end up in court, it shows the business owner used reasonable care in an attempt to avoid problems.”
It’s little details like this that make a difference. Premises liability issues aren’t always black and white. Small details are taken into account and judges and juries look more fondly upon a defendant when there’s a track record for concern.
2. Parking lot safety
For many businesses, the parking lot outside of the building is the highest risk area. From slipping and falling on ice to distracted drivers hitting pedestrians, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Proper signage is the best place to start.
“Critical signs like stop signs and Do Not Enter signs need to be ‘high intensity’ reflective in order to be compliant,” Allstate Sign explains. “Too many times, we see parking lots with non-reflective stop signs that are not safe or compliant. If a serious accident occurs, your organization can be held liable if it can be argued you did not have the proper signage in place.”
Parking lot striping fades over time and should be repainted to avoid confusion. You can also install surveillance cameras to have documentation of any issues that do occur.
In terms of surveillance cameras, it’s helpful to make them conspicuous and let employees, customers, and visitors know that they’re being recorded. Much of the value of security cameras is their ability to prevent issues.
3. Quick, thorough response
In addition to designing smart layouts, incorporating proper signage, and establishing rules for how equipment can be used, you also need to think about your approach to certain issues. In many cases, it’s how a business responds to a problem that hurts or helps a situation.
For example, let’s say a business owner has a store with an entrance in a dimly lit area. The entrance contains two narrow steps just inside of the front door. The business owner has had a couple of employees and customers tell her – on separate occasions – that it’s an issue. The fact that she’s made aware of the issue makes it a known dangerous condition. If she fails to do something about it, an injury could be grounds for a serious lawsuit. However, a quick response in the form of signage and better lighting will significantly limit liability.
It’s impossible for a business to insulate itself against any and all risk completely. However, by conscientiously addressing high-risk areas like premises liability, today’s leading organizations take practical steps towards eliminating unnecessary lawsuits and costly settlements.
Every business has to decide how to proceed, but following this model could prove to be enormously helpful for other growing companies. If nothing else, it provides business owners with peace of mind.