Wet floors: your responsibilities to keep customers safe
Slippery When Wet Customer Hazards
Highly visible ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ signs are frequently seen in public areas such as shops, schools and local authority buildings, even during the daytime when customer footfall is high. In an ideal world, businesses would delay cleaning until after working hours in order to ensure that members of the public are not required to walk over potentially slippery floors but this is not always possible. Sometimes cleaning needs to take place at other times of the day for health and safety reasons; on occasions, accidental spillages or leaks of water can also cause a floor to become wet. In these situations it is standard practice to place a yellow warning sign to inform others that a floor is wet so that they can take appropriate action to avoid slipping.
Slips and trips: avoidable accidents
Slips and trips are one of the most common causes of accidents in the UK. A simple fall can have potentially life-changing consequences including back injuries, torn muscles and ligaments or even fractures. In a so-called ‘compensation culture’, solicitors are only too keen to recover damages in the event that a client suffers a fall as a result of an avoidable cause. Compensation can cover medical bills, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel to and from hospital) and emotional distress as a result of pain and suffering. The total amount of a claim could be eye-watering.
Your legal duty of care
Warning customers – and your own employees – that a floor may be slippery is not simply a matter of moral obligation to ensure their safety, but a key responsibility under law. As an employer you have a duty of care to do everything reasonably possible to keep the workplace safe – and this means mitigating all potential hazards.
While as a manager you have the leeway of ‘reasonable time’ to discover a wet area, if caused, for example, by an unforeseen leak, visible warning signs must be positioned appropriately as soon as the risk has been identified. If cleaning is undertaken then the appropriate signage ideally should be placed close to the affected area immediately. This means ensuring your colleagues are fully-informed about their responsibilities and that they have the correct ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ signs, such as those available at The Sign Shed, at their disposal – and that they know where these should be positioned to ensure that all customers and employees can see them and act accordingly.