As a business owner, you should always be aware of the responsibility you have to your employees and customers or clients to provide a safe environment. Legally, you are required to keep your premises as safe as possible, or at least provide warning about potential hazards to employees and customers. An example of a warning is using a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign to help people avoid slipping and falling when the floors have been mopped or are wet from inclement weather. The potential for slips and falls, and therefore your premises liability, increases during the winter months.
What is your responsibility as a business owner?
As a business owner, the law requires that you provide safe conditions for your employees and for any potential customers or clients who may visit your premises. This is not just a concern for the winter months, but there are different issues that you need to consider when the weather turns cold. Most people understand that they will have to deal with more potential slip and fall hazards during the winter months. The state of Nebraska holds business owners liable for safety and not taking necessary precautions can open you up to potential liability suits and other issues.
Winter - specific issues
In Nebraska, there is an average snowfall of approximately 30" every year, according to the Current Results: Weather and Science Facts website. That's a lot of snow to deal with every year. On top of that, you have potentially icy conditions in your parking lots and on the sidewalks surrounding your building, due to the cold weather. The U.S. Climate Data website shows that the temperature in the winter months typically does not rise out of the low thirties in Nebraska even during the daytime. These weather conditions lead to many potential liability issues and conditions that can arise that you should always be aware of. These conditions can create numerous hazards for your employees and guests of your business.
The potential problems are not just slip and fall risks. You also need to provide adequate shelter. This means that you provide conditions that your employees will find workable, so to speak. It is not reasonable to expect employees to work without heat, for example, when the temperatures are below freezing.
What can you do?
The potential for injuries related to a slip and fall accident are of a primary concern for business owners. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, the primary cause of workers' compensation claims is falls at work. There is even more to guard against during winter months. Some steps you can take to prevent hazardous conditions during colder weather include:
- clearing all snow and ice from parking lots and sidewalks promptly.
- ensuring that there is the correct amount of salt or deicer on the sidewalks and parking lots when necessary or potentially needed.
- promptly clean up any snow and ice that may be tracked into your building, and put down the appropriate signage until the floor is completely dry.
- have your furnace appropriately serviced every year prior to the onset of winter, to ensure that it is working properly.
Winter has many issues that, as a business owner, you will need to keep in mind and stay on top of. However, taking appropriate preventive steps will help keep your employees and customers safe and comfortable. This will also keep your liability issues minimized, which means you can focus on running and growing your business.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Queens Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm's focus is in personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents, products liability and medical malpractice.