by Elyse Wright, Contractors Agent
With winter in full force, it’s time to turn in the lawn mower and weed whacker, and get out the shovel and snow blower. This exchange in equipment could mean increased risk for you and your landscaping company. Business owners commonly make the mistake of assuming that their landscaping or property preservationist insurance policy automatically provides coverage for the snow removal portion of their small business.
However, most landscaping and property preservation insurance policies do not allow for snow removal services. In fact, several business insurance policies specifically exclude snow or ice removal operations. In many cases, snow and ice removal may require a separate policy altogether.
When shopping for insurance policies for the ice- and snow-related services your landscaping business provides, there are several concerns to keep in mind. Before turning away a quote that is “too expensive,” dig a little deeper. Will the quote adequately cover your business? If a client slips and falls minutes after you finish removing snow from their driveway, will that be covered?
When winterizing your business strategy keep ICE in mind to help mitigate your losses. This simple acronym will help you implement an effective risk management strategy:
- Inform your employees and yourself of the different risks associated with ice / snow removal operations.
- Create an up-to-date risk management strategy.
- Execute your risk management strategy.
Accidents happen whether we plan for them or not. Staying informed of the potential risks associated with ice and snow removal and making your employees aware of these risks could decrease potential financial losses. While it may not eliminate claims altogether, teaching your employees proper shoveling techniques can help decrease back injuries or slips and falls due to improper placement of snow piles. Do not assume that an employee has been taught proper snow removal techniques. And if job-related injuries do occur despite your best efforts, Workers Compensation Insurance will pay instead of you.
Furthermore,according to Zurich’s Risk Management handbook for businesses in snow and ice prone regions, “the average slip and fall in a parking lot claim is valued at $12,808.” You could be responsible for paying this for out of pocket if you do not have General Liability coverage or in certain cases, Professional Liability Insurance. Taking a proactive approach now with regard to these hazards will help you avoid financial consequences later.
Creating an update-to-date risk management strategy is a painless process that unfortunately few business owners take. Many business owners fail to consider the causes of financial loss until they make their first insurance claim. Important questions to evaluate are:
- What could potentially cause a loss for my company – an improper contract with a client? Accidental property damage?
- Who could sue my snow removal business? My clients? Associates of my clients?
- Where / when could the potential loss take place? At the client’s location? While I’m there? After my employees and I have left?
Another way to manage risk is by documenting every landscaping or snow removal job. Documentation could be crucial in defending your business should a lawsuit be brought against your company. The first and often most important piece of documentation for controlling risk is a written contract. Do your clients know what to expect from your services? Providing your clients with a clearly defined, written contract can help eliminate gray areas in your business services and prevent future misunderstandings.
Once you have created a current risk management strategy, you need to bring your plan to life .If you find that certain strategies work better than others, you can reevaluate your plan and make changes when needed. Be sure that your risk management strategy addresses a variety of weather conditions and hazards. Just remember the three simple letters to help establish your plan -ICE: Inform, Create, Execute.
Still have questions? Visit www.insureon.com or call me at (469) 854-3984.
"Managing Slip, Trip, and Fall Risks in Snow and Ice Prone Regions."Zurichna.com. Zurich North America, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2012. http://www.zurichna.com/internet/zna/sitecollectiondocuments/en/products/riskengineering/defying%20gravity/managing_stf_risks_in_snow_and_ice_prone_regions.pdf