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Avoiding Customer Injury in Retail Settings

If you own or manage a retail establishment, a major source of liability exposure is the risk of injury to your customers. Unlike your employees, customers receive no safety training, and their ages can run the gamut to include those who are most prone to injury, children and the elderly. Here’s a look at what you can do to minimize the risk of a patron being hurt and the costly settlements that can result:

The most common injuries in retail settings are slips and falls. These can be a result of wet or uneven flooring surfaces, torn carpeting, poor lighting or any number of other circumstances. Head and body injuries from falling objects or retail displays are also frequent. Less common but still a concern are shopping cart injuries, often from tipping over, and injuries as a result of overcrowding, as we’ve seen in some Black Friday sales at major retailers.

Not all injuries occur within the store itself. Sidewalks and parking lots are frequent sources of liability claims, whether due to broken or uneven pavement or incomplete efforts to remove ice and snow.

And sadly, not all injury claims are legitimate, as shoppers have been known to intentionally pull retail displays onto themselves or stage slips and falls in attempts to receive a settlement.

What can you do to minimize your risk of customer injury or a false claim? A few suggestions:

  • Look over your retail space with fresh eyes to identify any poorly-lit areas or flooring surfaces that might pose a greater hazard. Cordon off wet areas, such as recently mopped floors, until they’re fully dry.
  • Schedule regular inspections to make sure all lighting is functional, and document those inspections.
  • Train your team to regularly inspect any higher-risk areas, such as where liquids are stored and might be spilled. Document these inspections as well.
  • Regularly inspect shopping carts for jammed wheels or other conditions that would make them more likely to tip over. Repair or discard any carts that are unsafe.
  • Put heavier objects on lower shelves, and make sure any freestanding displays are sturdy and not prone to tipping over.
  • If you anticipate larger crowds for any reason, make sure that both physical controls such as ropes and turnstiles are in place, as well as adequate security personnel.
  • Regularly inspect sidewalks, stairs and parking lots for trip and fall hazards. Pay special attention to proper efforts to keep them safe in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Install video cameras throughout the facility. These can help you to monitor any conditions that might be hazardous, and can also protect you in the event of a fraudulent claim.

And of course, meet regularly with a risk advisor to make sure you’re adequately protected. There’s no perfect solution to customer safety, but acting on the steps above will help to minimize your risk.

Questions about customer safety in your retail facility? Contact Consolidated Insurance.

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