STORE SPACES

Regional grocery chain has successful offensive against slip-and-fall

BY Marianne Wilson

In an industry where slip-and-fall claims are viewed as an inevitable cost of business, Redner’s Markets is an outlier.

The Reading, Pa.-based chain, which has 44 warehouse-styled supermarkets and 13 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, stands out with an almost zealous commitment to safety. It has virtually eliminated slips and falls at its stores by employing a comprehensive strategy that covers all aspects and areas of a grocery store, from the loading docks to the parking lot.

Nearly all stores have floor safety procedures in place, but whether they’re followed appropriately is another thing. Also, the procedures also may not go far enough to adequately address the problem. Just as a supermarket needs a range of departments to fully address customer needs, a safety plan should take a holistic approach. And that’s exactly what Redner’s does.

Redner’s strategy includes many best practices and such innovative features as barcode scanners for employees to record their actions during “safety walks” and a collaborative relationship between the company’s risk management director and an insurance officer who recognized the value in Redner’s floor safety success. Aiding its efforts is the fact that, as an employee-owned company, Redner’s employees have a vested interest in the company’s achievements.

The right products also played a crucial role. Redner’s specified floor mats from New Pig, specifically the supplier’s “Grippy Mat,” for use throughout its stores. The product has an adhesive backing that holds the mat firmly in place. It’s a relatively simple feature, but that stickiness makes all the difference, according to Tim McMillan at New Pig Corporation. In another safety feature, the New Pig mats can be easily cut to the ideal shape and size to protect a specific area.

Here is a checklist of floor safety procedures based on Redner’s best practices.

 Start safety walks: Most stores protect their entrances with rubber or absorbent mats, but other high-traffic areas throughout the store might be neglected, such as cart corrals and receiving ramps. Periodically studying what walkways and areas are unprotected, especially at busy times, will help you discover problem spots.

 Clean and record: Assign employees to make regular sweeps of the store, mopping up any wet spots or messes. Importantly, have a log where these employees can confirm when and where they cleaned throughout the store. If there is an accident, this can help mitigate claims. Redner’s went the extra mile, implementing a barcode system to document when employees last checked a section. Consistent documentation is the key here. It might be the difference in a lawsuit by establishing an incident was a true accident and not negligence.

 Use adhesive-backed mats: Products should have adhesive backing that holds the mat firmly in place. It’s a relatively simple feature, but that stickiness makes all the difference.

 Ensure mats are the right size: It’s not enough to just plop any old mat down and wipe your hands. Mat size is important, too. Whether placed at an entrance, in the floral or produce departments, or in any other high-risk area, it’s important to provide adequate coverage.

 Check the lighting: Bright lights inside and outside of the store help customers and employees see hazards. If a light goes out, it needs to be fixed immediately.

 Listen to employees: Survey or simply ask employees what parts of the store are problem areas in regard to safety. They know it better than anyone. Also, be sure to ask how they feel about current procedures. Are they inefficient? Ineffective?

 Monitor hidden hazards: Redner’s even discovered that monitoring food temperatures regularly could impact floor safety. Hot foods, as well as refrigerated or frozen food cases, are tied to an alarm system monitored by a central station. Meltwater from a malfunctioning case might pool without anyone noticing, causing an unexpected slip hazard.

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