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Slips and Falls

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					Methodist Insurance plc Brazennose House Brazennose Street Manchester M2 5AS Tel: 0161 833 9696 Fax: 0161 833 1287 www.methodist-insurance.co.uk email: enquiries@micmail.com

Slips and Falls
Accidents can change lives
Registered no. 6369 England. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, members of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
MIC6156 06/05

Accidents can change lives - Personal Injury Claims
A short walk down an alleyway which ran alongside her church, resulted in a fall which left Mrs. A. - who is in her fifties, so badly injured that she will walk with a stick for the rest of her life. The accident which has changed her life could easily have been prevented simply by replacing the failed bulb in an external light which was there to illuminate the pathway. This accident - as many are - was clearly caused by negligence, the cost of which in human terms was devastating. It serves as a warning of how crucial it is to ensure your church and its grounds are maintained in a safe condition.

How to make sure we prevent accidents
It is well to be mindful that many more people are now more likely to apportion blame should an accident occur in or around the church. Therefore, there must be no lack of diligence in maintaining good housekeeping standards to ensure your church and its grounds are as safe as they can be.

A 'BLAME CULTURE'
From 1992 up to 2000 cost of claims rose by 117%. This statistic has impacted on the Methodist community where we have seen a significant increase in the number of personal injury claims against Methodist churches. This is a reflection of the times where an emergent 'blame culture' has been fuelled by legal service providers promoting the 'no win, no fee' proposition. In many cases this has sadly brought with it the refusal to accept that accidents do just happen.

Measures you should consider:

• • •

the appointment of a Health & Safety Official contacting Methodist Insurance about carrying out your own Risk Assessment asking another church's official to carry out an assessment of your church and do the same for them.

Volunteers in your church are subject to many of the same regulations as employees and thus it is better to consider all workers (voluntary or paid) as employees. As an employer therefore, your church should have in place:

Please refer to the Methodist Insurance Health & Safety Guidance Notes or download them from our website:

• • •

A Health & Safety policy A procedure for regular risk assessment Health & Safety training for volunteers

www.methodist-insurance.co.uk

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Is your church and its grounds safe?
The following checklist is a guide as to a few of the types of hazards to look for:

6. Are handrails or banisters fitted and are they sufficiently strong? 7. Are there adequate means of exit in an emergency and are these exits free from obstruction? 8. Are all entrances and exits from car parks safe for pedestrians and traffic? 9. Is the storage of flammable and toxic substances in accordance with relevant regulations?

10. Do all fire exits open outwards? 11. Are the grounds on which the church or other buildings situated well kept, i.e. grass mown, etc? 12. Is proper supervision / instruction given in the use of mowers / chainsaws, etc? 13. Are there any low protruding walls or other protruding objects that people could trip over or bump into? e.g. paving stones that have lifted. 14. Is all glass in low windows and doors marked or protected? 15. Is there a first aid kit and is it up to date and properly stocked?

1. Do floors, stairs and aisles have a smooth, non-slip face, uncluttered and free of obstruction? 2. Are treads on stairs and steps worn? 3. Are the buildings well maintained with no loose boards or bricks, etc to injure people? 4. Is there sufficient lighting on stairs and steps and is external lighting adequate and in working order? 5. Are carpets and rugs fitted correctly to prevent trips from caught heels?

When completing your risk assessment remember the changing seasons can make a big difference to the outside of your church:

• • • • •

a broken or leaking down pipe which allows water to flow and freeze across a path grass may become wet and muddy winter hazards of ice and snow fallen leaves can create a slippery surface outside lights need to be working and switched on earlier in winter.

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Making your church a safe place
Churches seeking to improve the safety and efficiency of their properties should look carefully at hazards. In 2004 50% of all Personal Injury claims, referred to us, occurred in the grounds of the church. Falls outside of your church may be caused by cracks, holes, depressions and raised sections of footpaths and other outside walkways. Other hazards include; damaged, raised or loose grates, grids and manhole covers. Check the church deeds to identify what outside areas the church are responsible for. There can be confusion over where church land ends and where a neighbouring property or local authority highway/footpath commences. Anyone can slip and fall but senior citizens for example, may be more likely to fall due to physical limitations and deteriorating eyesight and agility. Severe injuries from falls can be more likely among the elderly. Areas used by young children should also be checked most carefully for hazards. Children are often unpredictable and prone to injury through slips, trips and falls. The inside of your church also presents many hazards such as; slippery floors and stair surfaces; worn and torn carpeting; inadequate lighting and trailing electrical extension leads good housekeeping procedures will limit these dangers. Overlooked and disregarded tripping hazards create dangerous situations, which may result in injury. Slips and falls may also happen in the winter through slipping on ice, snow, or wet leaves.

Assessing risks
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Create a list of remedial actions that can be taken and implement these plans. Unsatisfactory conditions should be addressed as a priority and in step with what resources you have available.

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Some hazards may require a special fund raising effort to obtain the necessary financial resources. Others, such as slippery floors can often be corrected by simple and inexpensive means such as stripping the floor finish and applying a less slippery finish.

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Repair the worst and most hazardous conditions first and set a schedule to repair the others. Prioritise your repairs. A path may be in need of a complete replacement but funds for such an extensive job may not be available. It is probably best to patch and repair the worst and most hazardous sections first and develop a plan to replace the path or walkway as soon as possible.

Priorities should be based on the likelihood of an incident occurring and the severity of the potential injury.

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How safe is your church?
Churches can help prevent accidents involving slips and falls. A sensible first step is to carry out a risk assessment both inside and outside of your church:

•

Are outside paths and car parks in good condition and free from cracks, holes, depressions, raised slabs and other hazards?
YES

•

Are your stairs in good condition and equipped with adequate handrails?
YES

• • •

Are your inside and/or outside mats in good condition?
YES

1. Look for the hazards 2. Decide who might be harmed and how 3. Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done 4. Record your findings 5. Review your assessment regularly and revise where necessary

❑ ❑ ❑ ❑

NO

❑ ❑ ❑ ❑

❑ ❑ ❑

NO

❑ ❑ ❑

❑ ❑

NO

❑ ❑

Do you follow a regular documented housekeeping routine?
YES NO

• • •

Are railings and handrails in place and secure where required?
YES NO

• • •

Is snow and ice removal carried out during winter months?
YES NO

Are floor areas free from electrical wiring, raised floor outlets and all other visible tripping hazards?
YES

Is lighting adequate during hours of darkness or bad light?
YES NO

Are floor surfaces sufficiently slip resistant?
YES NO

❑

NO

❑

Is your carpeting well fitted and unlikely to present a tripping hazard?
YES

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Are warning signs displayed when cleaning/polishing work is being carried out?
YES

Are tables and chairs inspected regularly?
YES NO

❑

NO

❑

❑

NO

❑

These are just examples and do not constitute an extensive risk assessment

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Accidents with ladders
It is essential that any work carried out at your church is done without putting anyone at personal risk. One of the most common causes of serious injury is misuse whilst working with ladders. The following pointers have been included to highlight the potential dangers and of the steps to take should you carry out any work on your church, which involves using a ladder. Falls from ladders are more common than one might think and this a subject worthy of deliberation in any discussion on safety around your church. While one might not reasonably expect church members to put themselves at risk in situations, which might be better in the hands of professional, economic pressures mean that many churches have sadly accepted such practices as unavoidable. We have recently dealt with an incident where a church voluntary worker fell from a ladder and sustained serious and life changing injuries. Sadly this type of accident is not unique. Many more suffer less serious injuries that result in time off work. These accidents are usually due to the misuse of a ladder or error by the user.

Minimising the risks
Accidents will always happen, we must however take steps to minimise risks and to prevent people from putting themselves into potentially dangerous situations. Your own assessment and acknowledgement of the risks is important and will enable you to take precautions to prevent accidents. Though it may be tempting to take the odd chance in carrying out jobs around your church, many accidents occur through over-confidence or complacency in using ladders.
Further information can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive. See www.hse.gov.uk/falls/index.htm A copy of their publication Height Safe - Absolutely essential Health and Safety

BEWARE…This Is How Most Accidents Happen!

• • • • • • • • • • •

Misjudging your step from the ladder’s lower rungs The ladder slips sideways at the upper resting point Ladder slips outwards at the bottom Ladder moves because of unsuitable ground conditions The ladder is placed at incorrect angle The ladder fails A fall from an overhead hazard An electric shock from an electrical hazard Due to weather conditions Injury through mishandling the ladder Injury to others from falling tools
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Work at Height Regulations 2005 are now in force. At Height is any place where a person could be injured falling from it. You must now do all that is reasonably practicable to prevent anyone falling.

information for people who work at height can be downloaded from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/heightsafeleaflet.pdf

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Kitchen safety
Apart from the obvious fire risk, the kitchen can be one of the most dangerous rooms in a church. It contains hazards which can cause burns, scalds, poisoning, slipping, tripping and a host of other injuries. Particular care needs to be taken when children are in the church, although best practice would be that they are not permitted in the kitchen area.

Minimising the costs of personal injury claims
• • • • • • • •
Ensure pan handles do not protrude over the edge of the cooker Take care when providing hot drinks to visitors Spillages should be properly and promptly cleaned up Warning signs should be displayed where floors are slippery or wet Store all detergents, cleaning materials and other chemicals out of reach of children or in a locked cupboard Ensure wiring and electrical equipment is regularly checked and in good order The Courts are able to impose financial penalties, and arguments with claimant's solicitors are much more difficult to answer if claims are NOT dealt with in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. These rules state that a Letter of Claim must be acknowledged within 21 days and a decision on liability made within 3 months. To ensure that any claim made against the church is dealt with in accordance with these rules you can help in the following ways: will enable us to make a fast response to an actual claim. Complete a Liability Report / Personal Accident Claim Form giving as much detail as possible.

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If you receive a Letter of Claim, please make sure our claims department is notified immediately and the Letter of Claim is passed to us without delay. Do not acknowledge the letter or enter into correspondence with the claimant's solicitor as this may hamper our investigation and increase costs. We will attend to all correspondence on your behalf.

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Dispense hot drinks at a separate point from children’s cold drinks and snacks and ensure hot beverages are out of children’s reach

All containers should be clearly labelled and have instructions for correct use Kitchens should contain a first aid kit and appropriate fire fighting equipment as recommended by the local fire officer

•

Please let us know when an accident occurs at your church - it can be advantageous to carry out an investigation before a formal claim is made by the injured party. This

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Be careful with hot liquids especially when carrying

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The Health & Safety Discipline
•
You will be visited by one of our liability investigators to discuss the incident. Where possible please take photographs which may be useful and gather all the appropriate documentation. Be prepared for this visit and appoint someone to handle the matter and help us with our enquiries. Ideally this should be the Property Secretary or someone with first hand knowledge of the incident. The overriding message when looking at Health & Safety should be:

You and Methodist Insurance
By working together with you as a team Methodist Insurance is able to deal much more effectively with any claim of personal injury against your church. Our investigators and solicitors are part of this team and by working together can ensure:

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PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS ISSUES Neil Martin Woodhead ACII Senior Claims Negotiator Neil_Woodhead@micmail.com

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act first, anticipate what might present a problem! get the message across to everyone who uses your church - do you have a copy of the Methodist Insurance Church Health & Safety Poster?

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a fair and just settlement of a valid personal injury claim is agreed while avoiding excessive legal charges from claimant's solicitors

0161 833 7783
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UNDERWRITING AND HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUES Stephen Dyke ACII Senior Underwriter Stephen_Dyke@micmail.com

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Always try to keep accurate records of any accident that occurs, your risk assessment, your regular inspections and information on any Health & Safety issue. You should check the premises before an external user group arrives, make sure this is recorded. Clearly recorded information can be invaluable if a spurious claim is made. Ensure all this documentation is available when our investigator arrives.

By taking these measures you will ensure many benefits:

• • • • • • •
avoid disruption at your church minimise suffering for anyone involved allow your church to focus on its mission fewer claims higher grants keep premium increases to a minimum

the successful defence of invalid claims

If you have any questions concerning the points raised in this article or wish to discuss any aspect further, then please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will endeavour to assist. Alternatively, write to us at our address shown overleaf.

0161 833 7765
If you would like to receive a copy of the Methodist Insurance Church Health & Safety poster, call 0161 833 9696 or request one by email enquiries@micmail.com

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