Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Summer Safety Tips for Businesses With Seasonal Outdoor Areas

When summer comes around, businesses with outdoor areas, like patio dining, sidewalk shopping, or children's play areas, need to make sure that those areas are safe for both customers and employees.

Just like an injury that happens inside a business, liability can extend to an injury that occurs on a business's outdoor property. Also, employees can suffer work related injuries, and file workers' compensation claims, for injuries that occur due to working outdoors.

Below, are tips on how to avoid claims against your business due to injuries at your business's seasonal outdoor areas.

Customer Premises Liability Claims

Frequently, outdoor furnishings, like tables and chairs, or kids playground equipment, will be permanently affixed to the ground, or building. These furnishings, while generally rather sturdy, can corrode and become worn and unsafe over time. As such, before opening up outdoor features for the season, these features, along with the areas generally, should be carefully inspected. If anything seems questionable, such as large cracks in a sidewalk or concrete patio, hiring a professional to inspect and repair the feature can prevent an injury and legal claim from ever happening. This also applies to non-built-in or permanently affixed fixtures.

Inspecting and repairing/replacing all outdoor furnishings, or other features, that customers may use is a duty that business owners must regularly engage in, even after the outdoor area has been officially opened for the season. Also, if your business does offer outdoor features, you may need to provide customers with protection from the heat and sun. Depending on the type, size, and location, of your business, there may even be legal requirements to this effect. Employees should be trained to identify the signs of heat stroke, and to offer customers water on those really hot summer days. 

Lastly, when it comes to customers and outdoor features, employees need to be trained on when to close those areas off. When temperatures are too high, allowing customers to use certain features could put them at risk of injury, such as a third degree burn on their backside.

Employee Summer Safety

In addition to making sure any outdoor features are safe for customers to use, employers need to make sure that employees that work outside are kept safe from the heat, sun, and pests. Usually this can be accomplished by creating heat-friendly employee policies.

Allowing employees that work outdoors to take extra breaks to hydrate or cool down is important for employee safety. Providing employees with easy access to water, shade, and maybe even an air conditioned area for breaks, can help improve morale during oppressive heat, as well as avoid heat related on-the-job injuries, which can turn into workers' compensation claims.

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