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Broken cracked pavement on public sidewalk

It doesn’t hurt to be cautious

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Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

My concern for personal safety in public areas stem from an incident when I was 15 years old. I was at a school drama and music camp and we had assembled in the foyer at the Malthouse Theatre. Tickets for the play were being handed out and I spun around to collect one, somehow twisted my knee and ended up on the ground. An ambulance was called, I was taken to Emergency, and I was on crutches for several weeks.

Even though I had no one to blame but myself, this incident has changed my attitude towards unforeseen dangers in public. Certainly, working in personal injury law has strengthed my belief in the importance of keeping an open and cautious eye out for potential hazards.

The two most common hazards I come across in my daily life are fallen fresh produce in supermarkets and damaged pit lids.

Grapes of Wrath

Every time I am at the fresh produce section of a supermarket, I find myself surveying the ground, on the lookout for the usual suspects – fallen grapes, squashed blueberries, crushed snow peas, stray spinach leaves. If I spot something on the ground that does not belong there, I’ll attempt to make surrounding shoppers aware and then alert the staff.

Customers at supermarkets and grocers are given the convenience of selecting their own fresh produce from crates and barrels. Most of us will then scan our own items at the self-checkouts and then proceed to pack our purchases into our dolphin friendly bags. However, this system of self-service certainly increases the risk of items dropping on the floor and go unnoticed. Without an efficient system of inspection and cleaning, sometimes, those food items are ultimately, and unfortunately, the cause of someone else’s slip and fall.

Pedestrian Pitfalls

Whether it be to avoid a crowded footpath, or to take a shortcut to the parked car, most of us have probably walked across a pit lid. Where possible, I try not to.

Contractors and companies with access to these pits and the underground assets have a duty to ensure that pit lids are secure, undamaged, and safe to step on, especially after a routine or scheduled maintenance. However, sometimes, they aren’t. For the unsuspecting pedestrian walking over a seemingly innocent flat concrete surface which then flips or gives way, the injuries can be significant. You may have also noticed fluorescent yellow pit covers, particularly on footpaths along busy shopping strips. Do not be deceived by the aggressively bright yellow covers and assume they are always safe to walk across. These covers are generally secured by bolts or screws and sometimes they can become loose, protrude from the cover, and become tripping hazards.

Being cautious may be an odd approach in a society that created YOLO, FOMO and GoPros. Perhaps it was YOLO that convinced me to perform a pirouette to take a ticket that night. These days, I prefer the not-so-modern mantras of ‘Better to be safe than sorry’ and ‘Look before you leap’. Watch out for those grapes.