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Protecting Your Business from Winter Weather Lawsuits: Safety Tips and Legal Precautions

Town Law Publishing Feb. 13, 2024

Ice injuryWinter's icy grip can wreak havoc on businesses in Pennsylvania, turning sidewalks into treacherous landscapes and entrances into accident zones. While snow and ice might create a picturesque scene, they also pose a significant legal liability risk for businesses. Slip and fall accidents are one of the leading causes of premises liability lawsuits, and winter weather only amplifies this threat. But fear not, intrepid business owners! By taking proactive steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of lawsuits and keep your customers, employees, and yourself safe this winter.

Safety First: Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents

1. Maintain clear, accessible pathways: Regularly clear snow and ice from walkways, entrances, and parking lots. Use shovels, snowblowers, and de-icing agents like salt or sand to create safe, non-slip surfaces. Remember, clearing once isn't enough – be prepared to re-clear after snowfalls and throughout the day.

2. Address potential hazards: Identify and address areas prone to ice buildup, such as shaded spots, near downspouts, and around entrances. Consider installing mats or grates for additional traction.

3. Provide proper signage: Alert customers and employees about potential hazards with clear, visible warning signs. Update these signs as conditions change.

4. Implement a maintenance plan: Establish a routine for clearing snow and ice, assigning duties and ensuring equipment is functional. Consider contracting professional snow removal services for larger properties.

5. Encourage proper footwear: Advise customers and employees to wear appropriate footwear with good tread during winter weather. Offer disposable shoe covers or boot rentals if needed.

6. Document your efforts: Keep detailed records of your snow and ice removal activities, including dates, times, and weather conditions. This documentation can be invaluable in defending against potential lawsuits.

Ice injuryBeyond Safety: Mitigating Legal Risks

1. Review your insurance policies: Ensure your commercial liability insurance adequately covers slip and fall incidents. Consider increasing coverage limits if necessary.

2. Consult with a legal professional: Have an attorney review your policies and practices to identify potential gaps and recommend additional liability protection measures.

3. Train your employees: Educate employees on slip and fall prevention procedures, their responsibilities in maintaining a safe environment, and proper responses to accidents.

4. Develop clear policies and procedures: Establish and communicate clear policies regarding snow and ice removal, customer safety, and incident reporting.

5. Respond promptly to accidents: If an accident does occur, act quickly and professionally. Secure the scene, document details, provide medical attention if needed, and report the incident to your insurance company immediately.

Remember, taking a proactive approach to winter weather preparedness is key. By prioritizing safety, implementing smart preventative measures, and mitigating legal risks, you can navigate the winter season with confidence, protecting your business, your employees, and your customers from harm.

Additional Tips:

  • Consider offering complimentary umbrellas or boot rentals to customers during inclement weather.

  • Regularly inspect and maintain outdoor lighting to ensure safe visibility during winter evenings.

  • Stay informed about weather forecasts and adjust your snow and ice removal plans accordingly.

  • Encourage open communication with employees and customers, addressing concerns promptly and professionally.

By following these tips and taking winter weather seriously, you can turn a potential liability nightmare into a season of smooth operations and peace of mind. Stay safe, be prepared, and enjoy the snowy days ahead!

Ice injury