All businesses have a duty of care to customers to ensure that the environment is safe for all users and free from any hazards that could injure shoppers or their employees. This does not mean that every single hazard must be removed from a supermarket as this would be virtually impossible. For example, if a jar was dropped on the floor and the employees had not had a chance to clean it up, you may not have a claim against the supermarket as the owner was unaware of the hazard, as it had just occurred.
The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 sets out the duty of care to businesses to ensure that lawful visitors are kept ‘reasonably’ safe whilst using their premises and they must ensure that they have reasonable measures in place. Measures supermarkets are expected to put in place include, but are not limited to:-
- cleaning up spillages
- putting up easily visible hazard warning signs to notify customers of a hazard
- clearing up food, packaging etc immediately.
If there are no warning signs and you have slipped on a wet floor or on debris lying on the floor, then it may be a case of negligence and a breach of duty on the part of the supermarket.
On a daily basis during opening hours, food and grocery stuff containers will be dropped and spilt/knocked over. Injuries from this type of accident can vary from there being no injury at all, to cuts, bruises, strain/sprains, to fractures and head injuries.
Should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in this type of accident and are subsequently injured, It is important that you gather as much information as possible.
Seek medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of your injury, this is because adrenaline can mask serious injuries whilst others make take time to come on. You may not realise you were injured until hours or days later.
This includes taking good photographs clearly showing the spillage/wet floor as well as showing the wider area showing whether there are any wet floor signs in place or not. Taking photographs of your injuries is also helpful as is taking photographs of you in your wet/dirty clothing.
Asking other shoppers or supermarket staff who witnessed the accident if they would provide their contact details. Obtaining witness statements can assist greatly in these types of cases.
Ensuring that you report the accident immediately and that an accident report form is completed. Obtain a copy of the report for yourself.
Ask the store when reporting the accident to provide copies of the CCTV footage of the accident. It can then be viewed to see whether the spillage can be identified, when the substance was spilt, as well as seeing the accident itself.
Keep a note of all losses and expenses including all receipts, earnings information, travelling expenses/mileage etc. It may also be helpful to keep notes of the progression of your injuries and symptoms.
Most supermarkets have a system where cleaning takes place at regular intervals throughout the day and records are kept of this. They also in addition to this usually have a ‘clean as you go policy’ in place, in which staff on the shop floor will throughout the day be looking out for any spillages and clean them up as they find them. If the store can show that they had a reasonable system in place at the time of the accident, a court are likely to find that the store had done all that was reasonably expected of them and the claim would fail. A claim would need to be lodged in order to obtain the relevant documentation from the supermarket and consider the same.
The same will apply during the current issues with COVID-19 with the restricted access for numbers of customers allowed into the store at any one time. The supermarkets will still be under the same duty of care in terms of ensuring that customers and staff are kept reasonably safe.