Operating a grocery store carries many challenges. After all, grocery store owners are responsible for keeping their customers satisfied with high-quality food products and promoting a positive work environment for their employees. What’s more, grocery store operations also carry several liability, employee safety and property risks—all of which could lead to costly damages. That’s why it’s critical to have proper loss control measures in place. This resource explains key risks that grocery store owners must address and provides helpful strategies they can use to prevent potential claims.

Premises Liability for Grocery Store Owners

First, it’s important for grocery store owners to ensure that their properties are suitable for customers. Whether customers are walking down the store aisles or carrying their purchased groceries through the parking lot, all it takes is a single mishap—such as a slip incident—to result in a costly accident lawsuit. To avoid such liability concerns, grocery store owners should uphold these measures:

  • Keep the parking lot in good repair through regular inspections and maintenance. Make it a priority to fix potholes, cracks and other slip or trip hazards as quickly as possible. Be sure that adequate snow removal and de-icing protocols are in place throughout the property during winter.
  • Ensure all floor surfaces remain clean and dry. Place water-resistant rugs at all property entrances to eliminate slip and trip concerns from excess moisture during adverse weather conditions (e.g., rain, ice and snow).
  • Make sure all emergency exits are properly marked and free of obstructions. Instruct employees to never block an exit—even temporarily. Post property signage that clearly outlines emergency evacuation routes and procedures.
  • Implement a safe and secure shopping cart corral design. In particular, corrals should be designed to prevent shopping carts from rolling away and colliding with pedestrians or vehicles.
  • Keep aisles clean and organized at all times. Make sure aisles offer enough space for shopping carts to pass through. Refrain from using product displays that lack stability or pose potential hazards.
  • Utilize appropriate signage and security measures to restrict customers from accessing potentially hazardous locations (e.g., the food preparation area or equipment storage room).

Employee Safety

As with any employer, grocery store owners must protect their employees from illnesses and injuries on the job. Specifically, safeguarding employees from common occupational risks (e.g., sharp objects, hazardous chemicals and dangerous equipment) is vital to prevent potential incidents. With this in mind, grocery store owners should implement these employee safety procedures:

  • Train employees on safe chemical usage—especially as it pertains to cleaning chemicals. Keep in mind that mixing incompatible chemicals can create volatile reactions.
  • Make sure all applicable deli and bakery equipment contains proper safety guards. This includes items such as slicers and mixers.
  • Purchase box cutters with sufficient safety devices to minimize inadvertent scrapes or cuts. Educate employees on appropriate box cutter usage.
  • Have employees use ladders, stools or rolling staircases to access or store items in elevated areas. Train employees on proper ladder, stool and rolling staircase usage. Ensure these items are properly designed and inspected on a routine basis. Replace these items as needed.
  • Require employees responsible for outdoor operations (e.g., retrieving shopping carts from corrals) to wear high-visibility clothing and appropriate footwear. This may include reflective vests and slip-resistant, steel-toed boots.
  • Ensure employees in charge of operating hazardous equipment (e.g., forklifts, saws and cardboard balers) receive adequate safety training and are at least 18 years old.

Completed Operations Liability

Because grocery stores frequently provide fresh food products to customers, completed operations liability exposures can be significant. In particular, customers could pursue costly legal action if they are sold expired products or experience foodborne illnesses due to consuming spoiled or contaminated items. Further, it can be challenging for grocery stores to recover from the reputational damages that often accompany such an incident. Therefore, to minimize completed operations liability exposures, grocery store owners should utilize these precautions:

  • Make sure all refrigerators remain at a constant temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food spoilage issues. Keep refrigerators in good condition and reduce potential breakdown risks through regular inspections and maintenance.
  • Keep food products in fully sealed and properly labeled containers. Such labels should list the product name and expiration date.
  • Utilize proper protocols for tracking the shelf lives of perishable food products. Dispose of expired items immediately.
  • Store all applicable food products (e.g., meat and poultry) in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Train employees on safe food-handling measures and how to avoid cross-contamination issues when working with raw meat.
  • Ensure any prepared food products are thoroughly and safely cooked.
  • Adopt an effective workplace sanitation program that includes having all food preparation and storage areas cleaned on a regular basis. Uphold pest control procedures to prevent infestations.

Property Damage

Grocery stores face various property exposures— especially as it relates to fire, equipment and structural damage. Whether it stems from inadequate maintenance procedures or a lack of prevention protocols, property damage can cause significant interruptions and is often accompanied by costly repairs or replacements. As such, grocery store owners should consider these steps to limit property damage risks:

  • Utilize commercial-grade kitchen hoods that are fully capable of capturing grease-laden vapors in tandem with all applicable food preparation appliances. Have these hoods professionally cleaned on a routine basis. Depending on cooking operations and frequency, hoods should be cleaned biannually, quarterly or as recommended by a cleaning professional.
  • Install an automatic extinguishing system (AES) above any food preparation appliances that have the potential to generate flames. Have the AES regularly inspected and serviced by a qualified professional.
  • Keep the property’s sprinkler system in good condition through annual inspections and routine maintenance. Implement fire department connections (FDCs) outside the property to permit the local fire department to supplement the sprinkler system’s existing water supply during a fire. Distinguish FDCs with proper signage and make sure they remain readily accessible.
  • Place Class ABC fire extinguishers throughout the property. Keep extinguishers on a regular inspection and maintenance schedule. Train employees on how to safely operate extinguishers.
  • Have the refrigeration system routinely inspected for potential leaks or other damages and serviced by a qualified professional.
  • Develop an appropriate housekeeping regimen to protect the property from becoming cluttered or disorganized. Make sure trash is removed promptly to prevent buildup concerns. Prohibit empty storage pallets from being stacked to excessive heights, as this can cause tipping hazards.

We can help Grocery Store Owners

It’s vital for grocery store owners to utilize effective risk management measures to mitigate costly insurance claims and lawsuits. Doing so can offer many advantages—including greater customer satisfaction, fewer liability concerns, a safer work environment and a lowered potential for property damage.

While this resource outlines a range of loss control strategies, grocery store owners don’t have to navigate their risk management programs alone. Working with a qualified and experienced insurance advisor can make all the difference.

We know the industry, we understand your needs, and we work with multiple insurance companies so we can deliver the insurance solution that’s perfect for your business, and your budget.

When you have confidence in your business insurance, you have greater peace of mind knowing that you can keep working to generate revenue, even when disaster strikes.

To get started on your customized solution, contact one of our Licensed Advisors, or Request a Proposal and we’ll get to work right away.