In the past decade, the insurance industry has experienced a drastic rise in the frequency of slip and fall claims against property owners, occupiers and snow maintenance contractors in Ontario. With the increase in the number of slip and fall related lawsuits in Ontario, there has been an increase in the number of large awards from the courts for personal injury, lost employment income and other resulting expenses incurred due to slip and fall related injuries.
What this means is property owners as well as occupiers of rented or leased property in Ontario are well-advised to maintain an effective snow maintenance program that minimizes the potential for slip and fall occurrences on their property. The purpose o f this document is to briefly outline what a typical effective winter maintenance program should consist of to assist property owners and occupiers to minimize the slip and fall hazard. An effective winter maintenance program can help establish a solid defence in the event that a slip and fall incident does occur on the property and a claim is brought against the owner or occupier of the property.
OARTY members or private group homes can find slip and fall hazards in a variety of places on their property. The last thing on a person’s mind while on the property is to be wary of slip and fall hazards. As an occupier, you have to be mindful of inherent hazards that may cause slip and falls. The only way to reduce this hazard is to be aware of the conditions on the property and manage them appropriately.
Safeguard against slip and fall hazards on your property
- The parking lot should be inspected at regular intervals for potholes, uneven surfaces, and other debris.
- Walkways should be regularly inspected for tripping hazards and clearly marked.
- Stairways should be regularly inspected to ensure walking surfaces and handrails are in good condition.
Snow and ice removal by a third party
- Ensure there is a written contract or service agreement.
- Obtain a certificate of insurance from the contractor and have your broker review the coverages.
Snow and ice removal by an employee
- Clearly define the tasks to be performed by employees and ensure that employees are adequately trained.
- Ensure that your employees maintain a log documenting what has been completed at what time, by whom, and note the climactic conditions.
Floors, hallways, and interior stairways
- All employees should remain vigilant and keep an eye on conditions of floors, including carpeting.
- Emergency exits and exterior stairways should be maintained snow and obstruction free at all times.
- All floor mats should be replaced at regular intervals and inspected regularly on a daily basis.
- All work by employees should be logged. Copies of maintenance contracts, certificate of liability insurance, and purchase orders or invoicing should be kept on file for third party contractors.
In the event of a slip and fall incident
- Accident Report forms should be available on site. In the event of a slip and fall incident, a report should be completed by the claimant and/or any available witnesses. The report should include the claimant’s contact information, be dated, and witnessed by a manager or employee.
- It is important to keep records of all accidents for a period of no less than two years.
It is important to establish and implement an inspection and monitoring procedure for identifying and managing slip and fall hazards on your premises. A routine which is undertaken on a daily basis, or more frequently when dictated by weather, may help you control and reduce the risk of slip and falls.