Where there is blame - there is the risk of a claim

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19 January, 2021

Tim Smith

In these unprecedented times retailers are often looking at alternative methods of delivering services to maintain a viable business and seeking to survive the challenges that the current pandemic presents.

Accidents and subsequent claims can be time consuming and expensive for retailers even when insurance cover is in place. Forbes advise many different organisations, including retailers, and insurers in relation to Employers Liability and Public Liability claims or potential claims. However, as a retailer there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to try and prevent accidents occurring which may lead to a claim against the business, or at least limiting the impact of any accident that does occur.

At this time, businesses should consider the effect of any changes in service delivery, i.e. change to home delivery services and/or pick up, as opposed to, on-premises consumption. Home delivery brings its own set of challenges in relation to employee safety and avoiding potential claims: - From ensuring the employee is provided with appropriate PPE, to ensuring the employee is able to travel safely to the customer's property, including appropriate vehicle provision and insurance arrangements, and safeguarding of employees from abusive or potentially difficult home customers. Risk assessments accompanied with practical training and/or pre-work talks are usually a good starting point, along with records of the training provided, but ultimately a culture of responding to employees' concerns and taking time to respond to their flagged issues is likely to lead to a safer environment for all concerned. Aside from pandemic risks, one of the main areas of claim risk is redeployment of staff, either short term or permanent, into new roles which they are not familiar with and with limited training due to time/resource constraints. The new roles may also include elements of manual handling, often involving newly trained or inadequately trained employees undertaking tasks that either involve excessive lifting/heavy items or over stretching or lack of awareness of other hazards due to over-stacking whilst carrying products for delivery.

In relation to customer collection at the business premises many of the same points arise. In addition, further consideration should be given to customer safety, including the location of the pick-up point, condition of the premises and, given the current restrictions, the practicalities of customers queuing and maintaining social distancing. This in turn may lead to customers waiting in areas of the Business premises that they would not normally be expected to visit, i.e. additional areas of the premises normally reserved for staff, or off-street parking with the additional issues regarding maintenance and possible salting/gritting in adverse weather. Again, risk assessments and premises inspections are usually indicators of good practice and normally assist in defending claims which are subject to court proceedings.

Whatever the circumstances, businesses should seek to foster a culture of reporting of accidents (and near misses) from employees/customers and recording any incidents to allow for early investigation and identification of any witnesses, which can often mean the difference between defending and settling a claim.

The above is just a brief summary of some of the salient points to consider to try and avoid accidents in the first instance but also to limit the impact of any potential claim against your business.

The Forbes Insurance Team are happy to assist with any queries you may have regarding the above and would welcome your remote attendance at the Forbes Retail Seminar on the 10th February 2021 for a more in-depth review and discussion of practical advice for dealing with accident related claims.

For more information contact Tim Smith in our Retail department via email or phone on 0113 3862687. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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