We’ve had a number of slip-and-falls in our pool area. What can we do to reduce these types of incidents? Should we increase our insurance coverage?
Any association with a pool, regardless of its size or depth, should always have excess insurance coverage to sit over its $1 million primary liability insurance. Slip-and-falls account for more than 1 million emergency room visits every year, are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, and cost billions of dollars annually, often leading to a higher rate of claims against property owners responsible for the area where a fall occurs.
There has been a recent trend in large jury verdicts related to pool usage causing significant injuries. For this reason, high excess limits are advisable. Most slips, trips, and falls are preventable, making proactive safety measures a no-brainer.
Beyond ensuring the association has the appropriate level of insurance coverage, board members and managers should commit to better understanding the risks and implementing adequate safety measures. These include:
Slip and friction levels. Know the proper friction coefficient for a deck, wet stairs, and other walkable surfaces in the pool and pool area. Test the friction level and, if it’s too low, hire an expert to adjust it. Additionally, ensure appropriate matting is in place in the proper areas.
Signage. Cautioning residents to walk and not run around the pool and advising them to wear proper footwear in the designated area is helpful. Employees also should be required to wear slip-resistant shoes where appropriate.
Safety checks. Schedule and maintain records of regular safety checks. Look for pool toys or obstructions in walkways and other high traffic areas on the property. Clean any slippery algae off surfaces. Document all safety check efforts and cleaning processes.
Property inspections. Staff should regularly examine the areas around the pool. Any changes in height or elevation should be clearly marked.
Pool safety, including efforts to reduce slip-and-fall risks, is an ongoing issue for any association. Vigilance and attention to detail are critical to keep the pool area safe.
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Margret McBurney is an attorney, vice president of claims and loss control, and industry lead for community associations at Distinguished Programs, a national insurance program manager.