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Focus on: Facilities

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The safety of customers and employees is always a top concern of retail facilities managers, particularly during the winter months when the weather can increase the chance of dangerous falls. But with a little planning, retailers can reduce the conditions that contribute to these accidents.

“It’s critical to prioritize what needs to be done and what actions you need to take to maximize your resources,” said Helene Browning, director of general liability line of business at Zurich Services Corp., a division of Zurich, a leading property and casualty insurance provider. According to data from Zurich’s Claims unit, slips, trips and falls increase substantially during the months of December, January, February and March.

Browning recommends a comprehensive approach.

“Businesses must evaluate winter planning from a 360-degree approach: the building aspect, the people aspect and the driving aspect,” she explained.

Zurich offers the following recommendations to help owners reduce winter-weather slips and falls:

  • Purchase entry walk-off mats that are not so thick as to block the swing of entry doors.

  • Extend mats 8 ft. to 12 ft. into the entrance to allow for the removal of moisture from shoes. A rule of thumb is to have the mat long enough so that each foot steps on the mat three times.

  • Institute frequent floor surface monitoring by designated staff throughout a weather event.

  • Have dry mops and wet-floor signs readily available.

  • Consider closing side entrances if you lack the resources for frequent inspection and maintenance.

  • Post an employee at entrances during peak hours to encourage wiping feet on mats. You can also post a sign to get attention.

  • Inspect awnings, gutters, roofs and downspouts for repair or replacement. A dripping gutter over an entryway can lead to ice buildup.

  • Use calcium chloride instead of rock salt. It works better at low temperatures and is less damaging to concrete and landscaping. And stock up early on salt, sand or ice melt.

Owners should also review and implement snow-removal contracts before the season starts, according to Zurich, ensuring duties are clearly defined for their staff and outside snow contractors.

“Business owners should also consider who walks onto their property,” said Regina McMichael, head of customer education and engagement for Zurich Services Corporation’s Risk Engineering unit. “They should implement additional slip, trip and fall reduction techniques if their business caters to children, the elderly or patrons wearing dress shoes.”

© 2014