Safety Hazards and Bodily Injuries Self-Storage Operators Share Personal Experiences
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|Posted on: 05/22/2013|
Every business environment presents potential safety hazards, from wet floors and loose carpeting to broken pavement and wobbly wall fixtures. In the case of self-storage, facility operators must guard against accidents that can occur to tenants, visitors and staff. All of the above risks apply as well as perils including faulty access gates and malfunctioning unit doors. These items not only pose a threat to people's physical safety, they can become a financial threat to the business if they lead to a lawsuit.
To learn about the biggest safety hazards faced by owners and managers, Inside Self-Storage reached out to members of the Self-Storage Talk online community. We asked them about onsite dangers as well as instances in which they or a customer were injured on the property. See if any of these apply to you. If you'd like to add an experience to the ongoing conversation, visit the thread, "What are your biggest safety hazards on site?"
What are the top physical safety hazards at your self-storage property?
I have a commercial loading dock, used by several of my tenants and the businesses at the front of the shopping center, which presents some unique hazards I wish both the landlord and my employer would address. The loading ramps are of the spring-operated type and can seriously injure an uneducated user. I try my best to train my tenants on the proper/safe way to use them, but I have no control over most people that use them. There are no safety rails/chains installed to prevent someone from walking/falling off the dock, and lighting is totally inadequate. Another area of concern is the main entrance gate; it has no provision to stop someone from being struck or pinned by the closing gate. My concerns are always met with the cheap-assed owner reply of "too expensive" or the like.
Customers! Just kidding. Some of our safety hazards come from tenants thinking they can change their oil in their car and leave the rags and filters on the roadway. It has also happened that they spill something in their unit and swept it out into the hallways. Other than that, we have been pretty lucky of not having any safety issues.
After more than 23 years in business, we've had our first slip and fall this February. The dust hasn't settled yet, but long story short, a 75-year-old woman with two prior back surgeries was walking while watching her feet. She ran into an air-conditioning unit that sticks out of the wall 16 inches and fell backward. That AC unit's been there more than 10 years without incident. The customer told our insurance lady that the ADA rule is that nothing can extend more than 4 inches from a wall. Now we have to research the ADA rules to see if we're in violation or if she's misinformed. It's tough to idiot-proof your entire facility, but if you've identified an obvious hazard, it has got to be addressed immediately!
Has anyone, whether an employee, customer or trespasser, ever injured themselves at your facility? What happened and how did you remedy the situation?
I had a customer walk under the arm gate as the arm was coming down so it would bop her on the head once. She was pissed because I wasn't waiving late fees or pro-rating rent (it's in the contract that we do not do these things), and he filed a suit against us later.
I covered my bases by filling out an incident report, and because she was "dizzy and nauseous" and worried about "brain damage" and rubbing her forehead red to make a mark, I called EMS to check on her because of the fuss, and she declined care. (I also stood under the gate arm on video and demonstrated the gate arm hitting me for the claim. There is a sensor, so if it comes in contact with anything, the arm will stop and raise itself.)
I was walking the property, and at the end of one of the driveways I saw a man flat on his back with items strewn around him. I ran over to him. He was barely conscious and smelled of alcohol, and his head and face were very bloody. I could not get him to talk to me. I called 911.
The fire department was here first and they secured his head, which had been bleeding profusely, and got him onto the stretcher. Then the cops arrived ("Nothing to see here"), and then came the ambulance ... and loaded him up and drove him to our tiny local hospital. He was then flown out of the area for treatment.
Meanwhile, his brother in Texas called to tell me what had happened (I already knew he was stinkin' drunk and had fallen down the stairs). When the dude finally got his head sewn back on and came back to see me, his brother had already paid his storage fee, and I told him he had to be out of the unit and off the property by day's end. He complied. But that was all really scary to me in the beginning when it happened.
I was actually recently injured on the property. After the time change, I went out to reset our light timers. The cover for the timer box is the type with a sheet of thin metal that just slides up into a groove and has two screws at the bottom to hold it in place. As I was removing the second screw, the cover sliced the screw in half and slammed down on my foot right at the base of my toes (think guillotine!). I almost passed out from the pain! I was bruised over the entire top of my foot and swollen to almost double its size.
I filled out an incident report and sent it to the corporate office. (I am the district manager, so I didn't bother sending it to myself first!) The next day, I went to urgent care and have been under their care for six weeks. I even got to wear one of those fashionable black Velcro boots for a few weeks! ... The only thing that could have prevented this injury would be if I was wearing steel-toed boots!
Most of the incidents with customers have been small lacerations from doors or latches. Soap and water with a band-aid soothed their wounded pride and no further problems.
[We had] one trip incident where an elderly lady fell and bruised her chest. My employer paid her medical bills for initial visit and follow-up to make sure nothing was broken. I removed the trip hazard.
Another customer broke his ankle moving a large pallet of his things down a ramp that I had warned him not to do by himself. He drove himself to the emergency room. After picking up his things and another pallet of heavy samples, I picked him up from the hospital and took him home. He rented for several years until he was transferred out of state. I know I exposed myself to a great deal of liability, but like I told my employer, the man was in pain and asked for my help. That's what I have insurance for.
The company bookkeeper fell on the ice a couple of years ago after being told to stay home until I had cleared the lot of ice. She suffered a small fracture in her left wrist that healed in time.
I have injured myself numerous times clearing ice and snow from the lot, trying to prevent customer injuries. On one occasion, I called my employer to let him know I was flat on my back and had struck my head on the pavement. His reply that "Didn't I have a daughter living in the area that could take me to emergency room" was enough to convince me to leave the ice and snow problem to mother nature and just close the facility until mother nature corrected the problem. [My employer] never offered to come to my aid or call the rescue squad. Luckily I only suffered a small fracture, and I learned an important lesson about where I stood with my employer.
I was cleaning out a unit that had some metal studs in it, and as I stepped on the end of one, it raised up and sliced open my shin; and when I stepped off it, it sliced open the back of my other leg. I took off my shirt and wrapped it around the worse of the two cuts, called the local minor emergency to see if they could do stitches, finished my work and ran over to get sewn up ... [I] got 14 stitches in my shin, wrapped it up and went back to work.
[I] told the owner about six months later, paid for it all out of my pocket. It was my dumb mistake for not paying better attention. No need for him to pay for my stupidity and lack of attention.
We tag all of our units to keep tenants from throwing trash in them. At one of our facilities, a tenant attempted to take of one the these sealing tags and apparently ripped their thumb open. Needless to say, there was a settlement over $9,999.
Few incidents over many years. None to me or mine, but [we] did have a tenant unloading a pickup truck with his flatbed trailer still attached. As he stepped off the truck, his foot slipped and he fell onto the edge of the trailer and broke his arm and cracked a couple of ribs. Scary, but nothing we could change here to fix.