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Holiday Shopping Season: How Small Businesses Can Reduce Liability

By Eastern Insurance, Dec. 14, 2017

Holiday Shopping Season: How Small Businesses Can Reduce Liability

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As a small business owner, you might feel like your typically extensive to-do can grow longer than Santa’s Naughty and Nice list during the busy holiday season. Between training seasonal employees, managing holiday schedules and keeping up with inventory demands, it’s likely that liability is the last thing on your mind. However, with increased foot traffic from holiday shoppers and slippery winter weather beginning, this festive time of year increases your chance of a liability claim from trips, falls, or other accidents that might occur on your premises.

To help you stay ahead of these unforeseen risks, we compiled our top tips on how to reduce liabilities as a small business.

Create A Safe Environment – Inside & Outside

Winter weather can create dangerous conditions inside and outside of your store that can easily lead to trips and falls. Under the Massachusetts Slip & Fall Premise Liability Law, a store has a duty to maintain the premises of the business with reasonable care and safety for customers and has a duty to warn customers of any unsafe conditions.

If a customer is shopping in your store and slips in a puddle or on spilled hot chocolate and injures themselves, they will have the right to file a complaint against your business and possibly sue. Here are some ways to prevent these accidents, warn your customers, and reduce the risks of paying hefty claims:

  • If there are lots of puddles in the store from wet weather and winter boots, put up caution signs at the entrance of the store to inform customers that the floor is slippery.

  • Shovel and put salt down on any sidewalks that are associated with your premises to reduce slips and falls outside.

  • Have signs at the entrance informing customers that food and drink are not permitted inside the store, preventing unknown spills from becoming hazards.

  • Install no-slip rugs at the entrance of your building, and on potentially slippery floors.

  • Inspect walking paths around the store for any hazards. Elect an employee to do a check every hour around the store to identify any possible risks to customers. Keep an eye out for low furniture or displays that might trip a passerby.

  • If a slip, fall, or accident occurs with a customer on your property, record the event in detail in case of a claim. Take pictures of the area in question as soon as possible, and take down as much information as you can. Documenting everything from the weather of the day to the footwear of the customer can help determine if you were negligent or not.
Create A Safe Environment – Inside and Outside

Train Your Employees to Be Prepared

You’ll likely need extra hands to help with the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season. If you’re hiring seasonal employees, you’ll want to hire and train them as soon as possible on not only their specific job, but best practices for your business, such as for maintaining a clean and safe workplace for the safety of customers and themselves. Identify which of your employees have First Aid or CPR training, and try to have at least one of those employees working each shift.

Perform a Risk Analysis
You may want to consider having an insurance agent come to your location to do an inspection and risk analysis of the interior and exterior of the property. They will be able to identify potential risk and hazards and can prepare a policy that is specific to your business and liability needs. They can also review your current policy to look for any gaps that would leave you personally responsible for damage to your business or liability issues.

There are plenty types of insurance you need as a small business owner, but make sure to review these two policies in particular:

  • General Liability Insurance provides protection if you, your employees, your product, or your services are considered negligent and cause bodily injury or property damage. It also protects your business against claims that occur while customers are on your premises.

  • Employment Practices Liability (EPL) can cover your risks due to some of the most common employment-related lawsuits, including wrongful termination (the discharge of an employee for invalid reasons), discrimination (the denial of equal treatment to employees who are members of a protected class), or sexual harassment, (subjecting an employee to unwelcome sexual advances, obscene or offensive remarks, or the failure to stop such behavior).

    Perform a Risk Analysis

If you are interested in our business insurance services and products to safeguard your business during the holidays, contact a member of our commercial lines account team at 1-800-333-7234, or visit our website at

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