Trip Hazards: What Could Your Mat Contracts Be Costing You?

It’s a common trip hazard scenario.

A woman has arrived at a Louisiana healthcare facility on a rainy day. As she enters the building, she allegedly trips over a rug or mat placed at the doorway. The healthcare facility is then held liable for injuries caused by the fall.

Hospital Rugs and Mats

Entrance Mats Are a Common Hazard

LHA Trust Funds finds that slips, trips, and falls experienced by patients, visitors, and workers are the number one cause of reported professional liability, general liability, and workers' compensation claims. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality backs those findings, reporting that 700,000 to 1 million hospitalized patients fall each year. Between 30 and 51 percent of such falls result in injury.

From a general liability perspective, LHA Trust Funds Risk Consultants identify facility entrances and exits as a top risk area for falls.

The primary culprit? Mats that are placed just inside the building to absorb debris and moisture from wet flooring and slippery surfaces may deteriorate quickly. Some reasons for this include:

  • Mats may become saturated, allowing moisture to be tracked into the building.
  • Mats may not be of adequate size to provide complete coverage for absorbing moisture.
  • The edges of the mat may not lay flat. They curl, causing a person’s foot to catch in the rolled-up portion. Uneven edges are an obvious trip hazard, especially for individuals who use a cane or walker.

A growing number of Louisiana facilities are implementing a new strategy to lessen and prevent slips, trips, and falls. They are removing problematic carpet mats and replacing them with carpet squares. Placing carpet squares at entrances, exits, and vestibules greatly reduces the facility’s exposure to falls.

Review Your Contract Approval Process

From a business standpoint, most facilities have thresholds for escalating contract reviews. Due to the financial amount of the actual contract with mat or elevator vendors, these contracts are often executed without detailed review. While the contract’s value might be nominal, the potential for the facility to carry all the liability and financial exposure in the context of a claim can be significant.

Review your facility’s contract approval process. Consider adding elevator and mat vendor contracts to those that require additional review.

When it comes to loss mitigation, pay attention to these specific areas in any vendor contract:

  • Is the scope of the services laid out in detail? For example, a mat vendor contract should include the number of rugs along with sizes, the party responsible for mat selection, and their placement within your facility.

  • Which party assumes responsibility for quality inspection? Who reports back to the vendor about any mats that do not meet quality expectations through either defect or wear?

Note all parties' remediation processes and responsibilities as laid out in the contract. Pay close attention to the language of the defense and indemnity sections proposed. If an event occurs involving a mat due to its quality or other responsibilities of the vendor, your facility can be left unprotected and potentially pay the entire value of the claim and any legal costs associated if the contract is not favorably written for the facility.

If you need guidance regarding any contract for rugs, elevators, automatic door services, or other vendors, LHA Trust Funds Claims Consultants are available to help as a benefit of your membership. Please contact Director of Claims Jamie Lamb for details.

If your facility experiences an event involving a mat, your investigation should be early, thorough, and complete. Learn how to investigate incidents with our on-demand webinar.

Want more slip, trip, and fall prevention resources? Explore our Fall Prevention toolkit.

About the Author

Mike Walsh Blue

Mike Walsh, AIC, CPCU
Liability Claims Manager, LHA Trust Funds

Mike Walsh is an AIC and CPCU-credentialed professional with more than three decades of experience in insurance claims, primarily in medical malpractice. As Liability Claims Manager for LHA Trust Funds, Mr. Walsh heads a team of senior claims consultants who investigate and assist in the resolution of claims. Mr. Walsh also works closely with hospital administrators, risk managers, safety officers, and clinical staff to help them identify and address potential liability issues

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