Parking lots are host to a variety of vehicle, pedestrian, operational, and construction activities, sometimes simultaneously. Facility owners and operators must inspect parking lots on the premises and address any aberrations that could cause an injury or damage.
In this article, Facilities Engineering Expert Christopher Fogarty shares the standard of care for parking lot operation and maintenance, drawing upon his experience managing a 183-acre, multi-use facility.
Parking Lot Operations & Management – Expert Article
There is a clear correlation between safety and maintenance. An important part of running any facility is an operations and maintenance program that controls reasonably predictable conditions but is also able to identify unexpected conditions and initiate measures to remediate safety risks or other critical maintenance concerns. When performed with consistency, operations and maintenance programs are effective at reducing exposure to many of the hazards regularly addressed in premises liability disputes.
PARKING & WALKING SURFACES
Walkway and parking surface maintenance is important to incident prevention. It is important to clearly mark and properly maintain walking surfaces and critical modes of egress as is guided by numerous standards of care, with consideration for access routes and travel patterns. Surface conditions such as elevation changes, potholes, cracking, etc. can cause slip, trip, and fall incidents and injuries if not properly maintained.
Contaminants on the surface such as trash, litter, debris, vegetation, and in some areas ice and snow can cause incidents if not properly managed/maintained. Such contaminations on walking surfaces can create dangerous conditions, and pest infestations are common where trash management is neglected. Other operational issues to consider are construction activities, loading/unloading and material handling, pedestrian and vehicular travel and the safe separation of pedestrian and vehicular travel. Management programs should account for special events such as parades, concerts, and sporting events and adjust accordingly.
Trees, shrubs, and other landscaping features have the potential to become problematic if not properly maintained. Overgrown trees are known to obstruct signage and impede artificial lighting, weed growth along walking surfaces, and tree roots can cause slip or tripping hazards, and overgrown grass can mask the presence of surface irregularities and other hazards. Fallen leaves, moss, algae, and similar conditions can cause walking surfaces to become dangerously slippery. Facility operators must also be responsive to storm events and seasonal weather variations that may require additional, proactive and reactive maintenance.
Adequate lighting is required for pedestrians to safely navigate their environment. It also plays an important security role as a crime deterrent. Maintenance and housekeeping programs should include regular inspection protocols to find and replace defective lighting in a timely manner and to trim trees or shrubbery that obstructs lighting. The type of facility and its anticipated use may influence the accepted timeframe for response efforts.
FORENSIC CASEWORK INVOLVING PARKING LOT OPERATIONS
The key elements our experts look for when evaluating the adequacy of a proper maintenance program are schedule/timeliness, attention to detail, and proper repairs. Maintenance programs should document the timing of housekeeping efforts, the items and areas that require attention, and who is responsible. Special considerations may include instances where outside vendors are utilized or where relevant corporate policies may exist.
Notice is often disputed in casework involving premises safety and parking lot conditions. Inspection and repair/service records can be helpful for identifying service history but may fall short of establishing the industry standard of care or reasonable inspection and service intervals. Our experts are experienced at addressing these issues on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants and can provide practical guidance with a sound forensic approach.
For more information, submit an inquiry or contact us at 800.813.6736.
Facilities & Marine Engineering Expert
Christopher Fogarty is a Facilities Engineer with over 40 years of experience as a Maintenance Engineer and Chief Engineer at a large, state-of-the art public sports and entertainment facility. In the course of his career, he has been responsible for all technical aspects of Facilities Operations, Management, and Maintenance, including equipment and building systems; health, safety, environment (HSE); and security.
Some cases may require the involvement of experts from the Architecture or Facilities Engineering practice areas. Contact us to determine which expert is best suited to address the issues unique to your case.