Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

Accidents can happen traveling to or from the jobsite, as well. Plan ahead and develop guidelines and protocol to deal with all levels of accidents, large and small.Many years ago, I worked for a granite company with an inside slab yard. I was with a customer trying to make selections, and of course she wanted to see part of a slab covered up by a smaller piece. I told her that I was going to get the forklift and a driver to move the smaller piece and I would be right back. 

I was on my way back when I heard a crash and a scream. I took off running and so did everyone else in earshot. Even though I had warned the customer not to tilt the smaller piece, she did anyway. She tilted it too far, lost control because of the weight, and it crushed her foot. The first words out of her mouth were, “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. Add the damage to my bill.” She then proceeded to tell everyone that it was all her fault. She told the ambulance driver. She told the ER nurse and doctor. She told the surgeon that put the pins in her foot. She even called her husband before she went into surgery and told him as well. Just so you know – I know all those details because I went to the hospital with her.

Fast-forward to today, and we now find that we are living in a much more litigious society. People are suing for the smallest of things, hoping to make the biggest of bucks. Large corporations have protocols and steps in place to handle very small mishaps up to very serious accidents. They know what to do. Unfortunately, statistics show that most small to medium-size companies don’t have any guidelines in place for when customer accidents occur. That may have been fine back in the day, but not so much, anymore. Even the smallest of companies need to put guidelines into place. 

Obviously, no one wants to deal with an accident (big or small), but since you must, you might as well do it correctly, and hopefully save yourself some aggravation if it does end up in court. 

Start an Accident Report Form. You can find a template online or create one in Word or Excel programs. Make sure it fits your business. It should have, at a bare minimum, the customer’s name, address, phone number and e-mail address. There should be a place to describe exactly what happened, and a spot for witness information. There should also be space to include the injuries the customer is complaining about. If it happened outside, make a note of the weather, the shoes the customer was wearing and if they were carrying something. There should also be a spot to write down anything the customer says that indicates they are to blame. Such as: “I wasn’t looking” or “Gosh, I am so clumsy.”

If the accident happens and there is no manager around, go get one. Ideally, you want someone of a higher authority to deal with a hurt customer. It comforts the injured party to know that “Management Cares.” Whoever tends to the customer, make sure to give your undivided attention. Stay with them. 

DON’T admit guilt. You can be sympathetic and say you are sorry it happened but utterances like “Geez, I asked Bob to clean that up an hour ago” will only get you in trouble. Recently I was on the grounds of an amusement park and I took a pretty substantial fall. I twisted my ankle, bruised my shin, scraped my knee, but worst of all, I banged my ribs hard on the walkway. In-house medics came and so did security. I was visibly upset and in an effort to comfort me, the security guard said “Ma’am, this is my section and I trip over that all the time, especially after dark.” Comforting? Yes, but totally the wrong thing to say to someone who might want to sue you.

Offer medical assistance. If it’s serious enough, call 911 right away. If they are conscious and talking, ask them if they want you to call for help. Do what they ask. Even if you don’t think they need medical attention, if they ask you to, call 911. They may have a medical condition you know nothing about. If they decline medical attention, assist them up but make a note on the accident report that they declined medical help.

Accidents can happen traveling to or from the jobsite, as well. Plan ahead and develop guidelines and protocol to deal with all levels of accidents, large and small.

Accidents can happen traveling to or from the jobsite, as well. Plan ahead and develop guidelines and protocol to deal with all levels of accidents, large and small.

Take photos of the area. Don’t take photos of the customer. Photos of the area, of the hazard and any warning signs you may have up are what’s needed. Then step back and take a photo of the whole general area. If you have video surveillance, keep it. Don’t let it get recorded over or deleted. 

Make notes on all the employees in the area. It can take a while for a case to go to court. Employees come and go. You may need someone who no longer works for you. 

Follow up with the customer after the accident. That old “Kill ‘em with kindness” action may save you a day in court. People want to know you care. The amusement park called me twice the day after the accident and then once a day for the next three days. If they didn’t care, they hid it well. I really was impressed by this action on their part and it did make me feel better. 

After everything has calmed down, alert your insurance company. They will probably have some forms of their own they want you to fill out while the incident is fresh in your mind. You might also contact your lawyer. Better to fill them in soon than to let them be blindsided down the road by something you barely remember. 

Accidents happen. Train your staff, have your plan of action in place and be ready. 

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