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Slips, trips and falls - do you know your duty of care?

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Do you own or occupy premises? Are you aware of your duty of care to all visitors whether they are lawful or trespassers? If someone is injured, you could face a claim for compensation.

The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 applies to owners and occupiers of domestic and commercial premises. Owners and occupiers owe “a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe when using the premises which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there”. In the case of children, the Act warns occupiers to “be prepared for children to be less careful than adults”.

If your property has any obvious hazards then it is worth having them repaired or removed. A pothole or wobbly or uneven pacing slab could potentially cause someone to trip or fall and sustain an injury. Having repairs carried out removes the hazard and removes the potential for a claim being brought against you.

If you occupy business premises where customers, clients or other lawful visitors may attend, you should carry out regular risk assessments to identify any hazards and take steps to reduce the risk of an accident.

One of the most common types of accident which befall visitors involves slips and trips. You should assess the floor surfaces. Do the floor surfaces become slippery if they are wet? Can the floor become wet through normal use or through spillages? How do you protect visitors if the floor is wet? Do you have a documented system for checking for spillages, tripping hazards and the like? Have you trained your staff to be vigilant and to mark spillages with wet floor signs and to remove the spillage as soon as possible after it is discovered? Have you trained your staff in how to remove the spillage and how to leave the floor in a safe condition? Is that training documented?

If you can prove that you have a reasonable system in place to identify and remove potential hazards then you may have a defence against any claim brought against you under the Act.

Did you know that you also owe duties to trespassers? The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 established a duty of care owed to “persons other than [the occupiers’] visitors”. An occupier must “take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to see that the non-visitor does not suffer injury on the premises by reason of the danger concerned”.

It is also worth remembering that anyone is entitled to walk onto your premises and to state their business - they only become a trespasser once you ask them to leave.

Although you might have insurance cover for personal injury claims, your insurer won’t thank you if the accident could have been avoided. They will almost certainly consider increasing your insurance premium and they may even refuse to pay out, leaving you to face the compensation claim.

If you have any concerns over the safety of your property or you have been injured through no fault of your own contact a member of our Personal Injury Team for advice.