The busy holiday shopping season coincides with the onset of winter weather in Virginia, which can create slippery walking surfaces in and around shopping centers due to rain, snow, ice and snowmelt. While this can create a treacherous situation for customers, it can also lead to slips and falls for retail employees during their busiest time of the year.
These slips and falls by employees at shopping centers, malls, stores and other retail establishments can lead to workers’ compensation claims, not to mention painful injuries for employees.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), risk factors for slips and falls in the workplace include: ice, snow and rain; loose mats or rugs; spills; poor lighting; and walking surfaces in disrepair. NIOSH recommends taking steps to prevent workplace falls, such as placing signs when surfaces are wet, using slip-resistant mats, installing proper lighting and choosing flooring material that will reduce the chance of falls.
The Cost of Slips and Falls on the Job
Falls are serious business for employers and employees. Statistics from the National Floor Safety Institute indicate:
- Falls account for more than 8 million emergency room visits, and slips and falls account for more than 1 million visits, or 12 percent of all falls.
- Fractures often are the most serious consequences of falls, and occurring in 5 percent of people who fall.
- Slips and falls represent the primary cause of lost days from work due to occupational injuries.
- Slips and falls are the top cause of workers’ compensation claims and are the leading cause of occupational injury for people age 55 and older.
- According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring materials are the direct cause of more than 2 million fall injuries yearly.
- 85 percent of worker’s compensation claims stem from employees slipping on slick floors, according to Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets 5th Edition.
Preventing Falls at Retailers
Zurich Services Corporation’s “Slips, trips and falls for retail,” offers a 10-point program meant to guide to help retail management teams reduce and control slips and falls in the retail environment. It indicates that business owners or managers must work to maintain safe walking surfaces at all times, especially when snow and ice are present.
The guide recommends slip-resistant flooring for retail outlets, citing studies that indicate 80 percent or more of the moisture on employees’ and customers’ shoes can be removed with the addition of quality entrance mats at store entrances.
The guide also reported that the average workers’ compensation claim value for slip, trip and fall accidents over a five-year period was $26,460, with falls related to ice and snow having an average claim value of $28,218.
Making a Claim for Workers’ Compensation After a Fall
In Virginia, all workers, including retail employees, may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they have a slip-and-fall accident while on the job. If you need emergency medical treatment after the accident, make sure to tell the medical team you were injured on the job.
If you have been injured on the job in Virginia, you should file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. You should report the injury to your employer immediately – no later than 30 days from the date of the accident – and file a claim with the commission within two years of the accident.
Your employer may arrange for you to see a doctor after your accident. The employer should also file a report of the accident within 10 days. It’s also a good idea to seek help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have suffered a fall while on the job.