Occupiers Liability Act

Despite their own understandable anxiety and fears associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store owners, cashiers and clerks have continued to show up to work and provide an essential service for communities across the province. We thank you for all your hard work on the front lines.
As the situation evolves, it can feel like guidelines are changing or being updated constantly. It can feel overwhelming but it is crucial that the social and physical distancing protocols are being adhered to without forgetting the existing duties that are in place to ensure safety on a regular basis. This article provides some information regarding daily operations and the statutory duties imposed on all grocers, whether they are a large national retailer or a small family run market, in an effort to keep all visitors attending their premises safe during and after the pandemic.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act states that an occupier of a premise owes a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises are reasonably safe while on the premises.[1] For grocers, this generally means that you should have policies and procedures in place for the daily inspection and maintenance of the store. All store employees should be trained in these policies and procedures. Jurisprudence has likewise noted that in addition to establishing policies and procedures, they should also be reasonably followed.
For example, grocers should have a policy that creates a schedule for routine sweeping, mopping and inspections. Floor inspections should search for slipping or tripping hazards such as spills or debris and require the placement of appropriate warning signs until cleaned. These maintenance activities should be logged in a database and stored for safekeeping in the event that a store must show it has complied with its statutory duties. Loose produce such as grapes, tangerines or plums can easily become a hazard if they fall on the floor. If a grocer stocks such produce, they should consider implementing a loose product policy and placing anti-slip floor mats in front of the loose produce.
Our population is aging and it is important to protect the most vulnerable in our society. A slip and fall can be catastrophic especially to the elderly leading to serious and permanent impairments. If you are a small or large grocery retailer the lawyers in our Personal Injury Group would be happy to review your maintenance policies and procedures. If you are a shopper who has been recently injured while at your local supermarket, please contact us for a free consultation on your rights.
[1] S.3(1) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.0.2, as amended