Insurance and Liability Issues of Outdoor Employee Areas

Posted on Jul 26, 2018
Insurance and Liability Issues of Outdoor Employee Areas

Many businesses are eager to offer something extra to their employees. Sometimes these little extras come in the form of business perks, like Food Truck Fridays or having someone come into the office to offer massage services or car detailing to employees.

Sometimes, it’s something more lasting, like setting up an outdoor seating area for employee lunches outside or even a basketball area where employees can enjoy a game of hoops on their downtime. Before you take the plunge and invest in these kinds of work perks, you need to understand the insurance and liability issues of them.

Premises Liability – What Is it and What Does it Mean for Your Business?

Accidents caused by property that is either defective or otherwise dangerous, whether they take place inside or outside a building, are considered premises liability accidents. They occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Flawed designs
  • Improper maintenance
  • Slipshod construction
  • Inferior materials
  • Dangerous obstructions
  • Ground clutter

If the accident comes down to something determined to be the fault of the property’s owner, or in this case, your business, then you could be found legally responsible for medical expenses and other damages resulting from the injury as long as the injured party was using the property normally, or as intended.

What Does this Mean for Employees?

Since this is about businesses providing gathering areas with outdoor seating for employee use, it’s important that you understand your role as an employer. It is your responsibility to create and maintain a safe working environment for your employees. This responsibility extends to areas designated as employee break areas as well.

In other words, if you add an employee gym, an outdoor eating area, or even a basketball area in the parking lot, you are responsible for ensuring this area is safe from potential hazards.

This includes routine inspections of ground for potential hazards (large rocks or limbs in the basketball area, for instance, or seating that is risky) and other actions to ensure that your employee break areas are safe for all employees to enjoy and pose minimal liability risk to the business.

What Steps Can You Take to Ensure Employee Safety Indoors and Out?

Prevention is the best cure for most things in life. This is especially the case when it comes to preventing employee accidents and injuries in the workplace. While most injuries of this sort will fall under the purview of workers’ compensation insurance, if you do not own the property, your employee may file a claim against the property owner.

That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, however. The property owner probably included a clause in your lease making you responsible for maintaining and creating the safety of the premises. In this case, the responsibility swings back around to you as the owner of the business and the entity responsible for maintaining the safety of the property.

Ultimately, it means you need to have the right kind of insurance protection to protect your interests when employees are injured on the premises of your business, whether you own the grounds or not. These are a few things you can do to ensure your outdoor areas are safe for employees.

  • Inspect areas routinely. Look for potential problems and early signs of damage, wear, or improper craftsmanship. Inspect the area for slip, trips and fall hazard, including things like ice, snow, or wet leaves.
  • Act to correct the problem. Whether the action involves ordering replacement products or replacement parts, clearing snow and ice, raking leaves, discarding trash or other debris, or removing furniture that may be dangerous until repairs can be made.
  • Post signs to warn of potential hazards. More importantly, rope off an area where hazards exist, so employees know not to visit those areas. Also post signs to advise of possible slips from melting ice, snow, and other hazards.

While prevention is always the best cure when it comes to accidental injuries to employees in designated break and recreation areas, it is equally important to have that right types of insurance protection including workers’ compensation insurance (WCI) and premises liability protection for your business for your outdoor seating areas and so much more.

Give us a call here at Otterstedt Insurance Agency to discuss your insurance needs and liability exposures at 201-227-1800.

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