Except for those who shop online, shopping means walking and, potentially, falling. Preventing falls is a safety priority for brick and mortar retailers, since striving to ensure a pleasant and safe buying atmosphere helps protect people and sales, while preventing losses and lawsuits.
 
But just having a generally safe and healthy shopping environment is not enough. 
 
You must prove you have one with a preventative, written, trained, inspected, and documented floor safety program. If you don’t, you could be accused of negligence when the inevitable happens.
 
The Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) suggests three steps to help prevent injury, litigation, and losses from slips and falls.
 
1. Be Responsible - This means anticipating problems before they arise, and acting to prevent incidents as part of a comprehensive Floor Safety Program (FSP).
 
Since most slips and falls happen on wet floors, be aware of where this can happen and outline countermeasures:
 • Install and maintain entry matting to trap moisture and help dry shoe soles.
 • Have caution signs available for temporary placement at entries during wet weather and other locations where spills occur (e.g., store aisles).
 • Have equipment available to dry floors. While, in the past, this meant mops and buckets, newer, more nimble and affordable equipment exists to conveniently vacuum and squeegee liquids from floors, leaving them virtually dry.
 • Have employees assigned to walk and monitor floors for potentially hazardous conditions, and set up inspection schedules with frequency and scope of inspection increasing to meet weather-related and other needs. On snow days, for example, inspect entries 4x or more an hour. In grocery stores, monitor produce and other aisles for hazards and spills at regular intervals.
 • Provide on-demand spill stations with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the attending worker, laminated visual “A, B, C” instructions, caution signs, absorbent material to soak up liquid, tools to safely remove broken glass and sweep up absorbed liquid, and a standardized drying method (mops and/or equipment).
 • When a hazardous condition exists, have employees assigned to stand by, cordon off and “own” the spill or wet area until corrected.
 • Specify routine floor cleaning methods and products, with safety signage; clean floors after hours or at slow times, leaving floors rinsed and dry if possible. Observe surfaces, worker habits, floorcare and cleaning effectiveness; improve and document improvements.
 • Encourage employees to wear shoes with non-slip soles.

2. Put the FSP in Writing
Write everything down and create Standardize Operating Procedures (SOPs).
 
3. Put the FSP into Practice, Train, and Document It Religiously.
Post SOPs prominently, train and require employees to practice the steps until habitual. Train and retrain on a schedule, and keep a daily, weekly, monthly log of training, procedures, frequencies, products used, inspections and corrections, employee names, dates and times.  Send file copies to management.
 
The paper trail is strong evidence that you have been responsible and not negligent.
 
Don’t roll over if confronted by what you suspect is a fraudulent claim. If you follow these steps, you’ll should be well prepared to defend your policies and record of responsibility.
 
Beyond the key focus on safety, the purpose of a documented floor safety program is to protect your business and provide a strong legal basis to refute charges of negligence.