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Risk Management - Preventing Falls on Stairs.

Posted 3/31/2019

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RISK MANAGEMENT: PREVENTING ACCIDENTS ON STAIRS

UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS

If you’re curious what the leading source of injuries, claims, and insurance costs for the hospitality industry is, look no further than slips, trips, and falls. Additionally, Distinguished’s fourteen-year study of claims against hotels shows that the second-leading source of accidents (after uncarpeted floors) is falls on stairs, steps, and ramps. During this study, payout to the tune of nearly $10 million was made related to falls on stairs, which is 15% of all falls, and 14% of costs.

Preventing serious injuries should be a top priority for hospitality managers. A fall on stairs increases the risk of serious head, facial, and neck injuries due to the added possibility of rolling, sliding, and twisting during and after the accident.

YOUR LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

The National Building Code was set in 2000 and is the guide for ensuring your stairs meet current national standards. In the past, building codes varied state by state in the US, but this country-wide streamlining addresses requirements for stair construction and sets forth generally accepted and recognized construction practices. While a region may not have adopted an updated code, or “grandfathers” past codes, this is a weak argument for poor construction, especially when a claim is filed. Hotel management should ensure that all stairs meet the proper building codes and have adequate handrails, nonslip surfaces, and good lighting.

But even if your stairs meet code, they must be maintained in a safe condition. An increasing number of state courts are shifting the burden of proof in slip-and-fall cases. A hotel must prove through documented, routine inspections, that it took reasonable precautions to keep all walking surfaces free from hazards.

For example, materials should never be stored, even temporarily, on stairs. Immediately clean up spills or debris. And use warning signs until conditions are once again safe. Documentation here is key.

HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR COMPANY

Suggestions designed to assist you in developing sound policies and procedures for your organization follow.

TIPS: PREVENTING INJURIES ON STAIRS

Top Recommendations:

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

  • Assess your property to reduce slip-and-fall hazards
  • Institute a slip-and-fall prevention policy and educate staff on hazards as well as procedures
  • Schedule periodic walk-throughs to identify and correct issues
  • Ensure good housekeeping practices with continued maintenance, training, and documentation
  • Investigate accidents thoroughly
  • Analyze any losses to note trends and also measure your policy’s effectiveness

STAIRWAYS

  • Get down on your hands and knees! Are treads and risers in good condition?
  • Get out the tape measure. Are risers of uniform height and treads of uniform width?
  • Take photos. Is the stairway clear and unobstructed (nothing blocking stairway entrance or exit and nothing on the stairway)?
  • Test with your shoe. Are stairway treads adequately slip-resistant?
  • Is the stairway free of water, oil, or other liquid that can cause slippage?
  • Use your hands. Is all the carpeting on the stairway securely fastened with no loose edges?
  • How old is the carpet? Is the carpeting on the stairway free of wears/tears/ loose areas?
  • Are handrails and guardrails in place and at the correct height?
  • Are handrails connected securely?

RAMPS

  • Is the ramp clean, unobstructed, and slip-resistant?
  • Is the ramp designed so that liquid cannot accumulate on its surface?
  • Is the ramp free of water, oil, or other liquid that can cause slippage?
  • Are handrails in place (if the ramp’s run is longer than six feet) and at the correct height?
  • Are handrails securely connected?
  • Is all carpeting on ramps securely fastened with no loose edges?
  • Is the carpeting on ramps free of wears/tears/loose areas?
  • If your routine inspections reveal deficiencies in any of these areas, the situation should be corrected immediately, and management should document the remediation steps.

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