Inspections and assessments are a big part of organizational routine. Inspect, correct, inspect, correct, inspect… At some point, whether due to budgets, lack of staff or other factors, inspections stagnate and deterioration sets in. Incidents occur, claims go up and then miraculously risk management calls for action. Back to the inspections!
Know or should have known
When we look at sexual harassment, IEP or any other numerous issues, the law always points to this phrase “whether you know or should have known”. That is a serious phrase and one that leads to liability. You are on the hook for knowing or not knowing when you should have known.
So, should you know that you have slip and fall hazards, chemical hazards, or any other number of issues? Yes. Why, because everyone else that works at that site already knows. It’s plainly visible. The people that work with the specialized equipment see it everyday. They mention these hazards to co-workers and supervisors. It goes into meeting minutes routinely. And finally, because you are supposed to perform periodic inspections, hazard assessments, pre-trip inspections and annual inventories.
But, what if we can’t fix it
But every great once in awhile, the question is raised. If I do this inspection is this going to great a greater liability in the event that someone is injured before we get a chance to fix it? Yes, this will happen from time to time. And the question then becomes after you recognized the hazard, what did you do? Did you put together a plan, did you budget for it, did you even talk about it or did you just dismiss it?
The leading factor in mitigating your liability is actually trying to mitigate the hazards. Do nothing and you get no mitigating circumstances when it comes to your liability.
The answer is simple. Do your inspections, plan to mitigate the hazards and your liability will be much less because doing noting, is well, plain dumb.