You don’t have to be a genius to identify dangerous floor surfaces in your restaurant or to figure out why they are slippery. So why are we suggesting you think about bringing in an outside expert to document just how bad they might be? Three words: personal injury lawyers.
Two recent events prompt our brief look at slips and falls.
One is the publication by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) of ANSI/NFSI B101.1. It’s the new national safety standard for the testing of hard surface flooring. This action doesn’t create any new obligations for restaurant operators. The standard merely gives safety inspectors a way to categorize the hazard potential of a restaurant’s floors.
The second is our recent tour on jury duty. It gave us new respect for how easily a skilled litigator can make a company or public agency appear negligent for not making full use of all possible monitoring and safety measures, even when doing so would have seemed like overkill prior to or even at the time of the precipitating incident.
Which is why restaurant operators might want to consider hiring a “National Floor Safety Institute Certified Walkway Auditor” to take a look at their operation. In the words of one such service provider, Traction Auditing: “By using an independent walkway auditing company like Traction Auditing, companies can ensure maximum safety for their employees and customers. Traction Auditing’s Safe Surface System, based around the ANSI B101.1 standard, helps companies large and small protect themselves from unwarranted litigation from slips and falls.”
In other words, should someone take a tumble at your restaurant and you find yourself on the witness stand being grilled by the plaintiff’s attorney, you’ll be able to defend yourself this way: “Not only was our restaurant not negligent; we were proactive, hiring outside auditors to perform tests that measured us against the highest industry standard, the ANSI B101.1 standard.” Trust us, it beats explaining to the jury why you didn’t.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether hiring a floor safety expert would be worth it and if Traction Auditing or another company would be the service supplier you’d want perform your inspection. But if you’re wondering how often this might come up, be advised that Centers For Disease Control statistics show that slips and falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits in the U.S. NFSI numbers claim that more than three million foodservice employees and one million guests are injured each year as a result of restaurant slips and falls, with the industry spending more than $2 billion to rectify these injuries.
The National Restaurant Association says that slips and falls are the greatest source of general liability claims within the restaurant industry. NFSI says incidents are increasing at a 10 percent annual clip. You can be sure that members of the plaintiff’s bar are eager to file slip and fall cases as fast as your workers or customers hit the floor.
We don’t know that you need an auditor to help you manage this problem, but we are saying it’s a problem that’s not going to go away.