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For all practical purposes, when someone suffers an injury while on your property, you are liable. Waste companies are responsible for the safety of everyone who comes onto their property. Normally, these persons may include customers, vendors, delivery people or the general public dropping off waste or recyclables. Judgments have even been awarded to trespassers in cases in which the waste company did little to discourage trespassing.

The best way to avoid a premises-related general liability claim is to limit the number of non-employees who come onto your property. The property should be fenced or have other access controls. Waste companies should encourage customers to make payments by mail and discourage tour groups or drop-offs of waste and recyclables by the general public.

The above may not be practical for many companies in the waste industry, especially those that are required to accept drop-offs from the general public. With this in mind, the second best way to avoid general liability claims is to limit the areas that can be accessed by non-employees.

Ideally, the office, visitor parking and any drop-off bins for waste or recyclables should be located near the front of the property and away from the traffic patterns of waste vehicles and heavy equipment. Signs should be posted to direct visitors and to identify restricted areas. All visitors should be escorted while on the property. Children should be required to remain in their parent's vehicle and scavenging of any kind should be prohibited.

In addition to limiting access, waste companies also need to identify and control hazards in the areas that visitors can reach. The visitor parking area and walkways to the office should be free of potholes or other tripping hazards. Staircases should be in good shape and have appropriate handrails. In cold weather climates, snow should be removed promptly and ice-melting products should be applied to walkways.

Another special area of concern that has led to many general liability claims is the presence of animals. Dog bites are the most common type of liability claim made against homeowner's policies and have also led to large general liability judgments against waste companies. Whether it is a guard dog or the pet of an owner or employee, the best way to avoid these claims is by prohibiting dogs on the premises.

Waste companies have spent considerable time and money to protect their employees from injury. These efforts are made to reduce workers comp claims and control insurance costs. Because of the potential for large general liability claims, waste companies need to be just as vigilant in protecting others who come onto their property.
Bruce A. Hooker
R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
Sacramento, Calif.