Guest injuries due to bathtub or shower slips and falls remain a constant source of exposure for hospitality management, and no wonder considering the abundancy of potential risks. In fact, a study on hotel accidents conducted by Cornell University concluded that at 42%, slips and falls were the most common type of accident hotel guests suffered; guest room bathtubs and showers were one of the most common sites of a guest’s bathroom slips or fall.
Children are obviously at high risk but elderly adults actually have the greatest risk of serious injury in this manner—consider that a slip and fall might cause a bruise in a 25 year-old man, but break bones in a 75-year-old woman. With the first wave of the 76 million Baby Boomers reaching age 70 ½ in 2016 (and plenty of them checking into hotels every day), the sheer numbers of this category are sobering.
Premises liability insurance along with an umbrella policy as part of a comprehensive business coverage can offer protection from the liability associated with a slip-and-fall claim. For example, one client—an upscale hotel—recently turned to their umbrella policy for a $1.8 million payout because the anti-slip surface in the bathtub wasn’t technically anti-slip enough. We all know that bathtubs and shower stalls are inherently slippery and therefore possibly dangerous—what’s called an “open and obvious” danger, which defendants have argued calls for guests to take responsibility to reasonably protect themselves. On the other hand, this argument also means that management realizes the risk exists too, and thus should take preventive action.
What may surprise you is how many of these fixes are simple and relatively inexpensive to implement, and how great a role the housekeeping staff plays in the mix:
- Install anti-slip bath mats in all tubs and showers; look for mats that provide the greatest amount of traction available
- Install grab bars both inside and outside the shower (one plaintiff sued because she slipped in a hotel shower that had no grab bar except outside the shower, out of immediate reach)
- Inspect bath mats and grab rails regularly to ensure they are securely attached
- Select slip-resistant materials for bathroom flooring
- Consult a safety expert to ensure placement of items such as grab bars, towel bars, robe hooks, or other items are considered to be in a reasonable area
- Make sure all lights in the bathroom are working, and have sufficient wattage to allow good visibility
- If there are curbs around the shower stall, paint them so they can easily be seen
- Make sure staff housekeeping is diligent in keeping tubs and showers free of mildew, mold, soap scum and bubble bath film, all of which can create a slippery surface
- Keep track of cleaning schedules and assignments for housekeeping staff; ensure all are trained so cleaning processes are consistent and thorough; reprimand or terminate staff who don’t do a good job
So you see—it’s possible to reduce exposure to guest slip and fall claims before they ever set foot in the establishment.