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The Slippery Exposure that Eludes Safety Managers

Take preventive measures to reduce the frequency of general liability claims involving slips and falls.
By: | March 21, 2018 • 6 min read

If your building has a parking lot, a common entryway, or any uncarpeted floors, you have a significant slip and fall risk.

According to CNA’s data covering a 7-year period, slips and falls account for 36% of claims in their top five industries. With an average cost of $30,000, general liability claims from slips and falls can put a big dent in a company’s bottom line over time*.

And those are the claims that do not involve serious consequences like traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Though infrequent, claims involving a TBI can reach almost $300,000.

”Office and retail spaces are not immune to the slip and fall risk,” said Steve Hernandez, Senior Vice President, Commercial Risk Control, CNA. “From both the frequency and severity standpoint, safety managers for these types of facilities aren’t always aware of the extent of their slip and fall exposure.”

In 2010, CNA noticed an uptick in their general liability claims involving slips and falls. They found that most were the result of walkway surfaces just inside the main entryway of commercial buildings. In 2017, after a two-year investigation, a team of walkway specialists found half of the locations they surveyed failed to meet the minimum threshold for slip resistance set by the American National Standards Institute.

Their study illuminated what safety managers were doing wrong when it comes to measuring slip resistance, floor maintenance, and risk awareness in order to prevent and minimize the damage from falls.

The Source of Slips

Steve Hernandez
Senior Vice President, Commercial Risk Control, CNA

In many cases, safety managers at Class A, LEED-certified buildings — which had seen the biggest spikes in slip and fall liability claims within CNA’s portfolio— thought they were following proper protocols. But their risk mitigation efforts were missing the mark, sometimes even worsening the hazard.

Class A properties like those utilized by real estate companies and financial institutions are at increased risk due to the types of flooring they feature.

“Think of those beautiful, shiny marble or terrazzo floors,” said Shari Falkenburg, Assistant Vice President, Risk Control, CNA. “They are pristine by design. To maintain LEED certification, cleaning crews have to maintain them, but improper cleaning can make floors more slippery.”

Different floor types require different cleaning solutions. That terrazzo, for example, calls for a cleaner with neutral pH and thorough rinsing. The acid-based solutions used for ceramic and porcelain would damage it. Proper cleaning also requires careful management of mops and buckets.

Using the same mop bucket to clean multiple surface types can lead to cross-contamination of debris and leave a soapy residue behind, leaving floors more slippery than before they were cleaned.

“Even the way you store a mop matters,” Hernandez said. “The handle end should point down. Keeping the mop end on the floor means it’s always in contact with debris and won’t clear away contaminants as effectively.”

Facilities also commonly use entryway mats to help absorb the moisture and dirt that pedestrians track in. But like cleaning solutions, a mismatched or improperly used mat can heighten fall risk.

A mat that’s too short, for example, may not collect enough of that moisture and debris. It could also introduce a new tripping hazard if it’s fraying or curling at the edges.

“One building was using a rectangular mat in a circular entryway, and people were actually stepping around the mat when they came through the door. So in some cases a custom-sized mat may be necessary to do the job it’s intended for,” Hernandez said.

The CNA Risk control team helped several real estate companies and bank branches they surveyed to implement specific changes in their floor maintenance. In addition, the team widened the customer’s knowledge about contracts with their property managers and cleaning crew. As a result, the average cost of a fall general liability claim fell to about $10,000 — a 66 percent decrease.

More than the Floor: Full Exposure Expertise

Targeted, site-specific prevention recommendations demonstrate why risk managers should consult safety experts. By bringing extra engineering resources and industry expertise to bear, risk control specialists can help facility managers gain a more detailed picture of their exposure and identify innovative ways to mitigate it.

CNA’s slip and fall study team, for example, evaluated floor slipperiness using the science of tribometry – a technical way to measure slip resistance while walking by determining the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF). Using a Binary Output Tribometer (BOT 3000E), they could score each floor DCOF and compare it against industry standard ANSI A326.3. Any score above 0.42 is considered a passing grade.

“But reducing the frequency of falls is not just about the traction of the walking surface. It’s also about visual acuity — something else a facility manager might not think about.” Falkenburg said. “We apply the science of syntonics, which has been used in optometry for a few years. Basically, we’re using light to direct line of sight and wake up the body’s internal sensors – the ability to focus and balance.”

Changing the lighting can reduce excessive glare and help to brighten colors. Creating more contrast helps people more easily register changes in flooring condition or elevation.

“By taking a scientific approach and comparing the results against industry benchmarks, we can take definitive and proven steps to reduce physical hazards,” she said.

A Strategic & Trusted Risk Advisor

CNA’s team of risk control experts meets with clients on a regular basis across the U.S. to help implement these tools and more. Along with sector-specific expertise in fields like construction, manufacturing, technology, financial institutions and healthcare, they also have an understanding of insurance coverages including property, general liability, product liability, and workers’ compensation. Many have achieved their professional designations including the Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) and Associate in Risk Management (ARM). CNA risk control experts also hold the unique professional credential of UL RRE (Registered Risk Engineer).

“Our segment knowledge compliments our expertise in the lines of business we cover, so we really bring a depth of experience, insight and the ability to benchmark our best practices to our customers,” Falkenburg said.

“Our engagement with insureds starts with a conversation about the nature of their business, including operating priorities and the strategies put in place to mitigate risk,” Hernandez said.

“The purpose of risk control is to assess the level of risk for underwriting purposes, but it often leads to a discussion on the creation of recommendations to strengthen control mechanisms.”

“We are committed to bringing value to our insureds through specific consulting services built for specific segments,” Hernandez said. CNA provides ongoing support in the form of hundreds of online educational opportunities through its School of Risk Control Excellence (SORCE®), which offers courses across a range of risk management topics. And risk control consultants are always at the ready to meet with a company to address a specific need and/or a strategic risk management objective.

“We frequently receive calls from insureds asking us for input on a new product or facility, or a potential change in their processes,” Hernandez said.

“And that really is our goal; to be a strategic and trusted risk advisor for our policyholders and an extension of their risk management team.”

Learn more about CNA’s Slip and Fall Study Report.

 

* CNA’s Slip and Fall Study Report

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with CNA. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Serving business and professionals since 1897, CNA is the commercial insurance carrier of choice for more than 1 million businesses and professionals worldwide.

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]