Snow removal contracts are a popular way for landscaping companies to maintain staffing levels over the winter and ensure year-round income. When it comes to getting insurance, however, snow is a four-letter word. This article outlines why insurance has become such a challenge for snow removal companies and lets you in on one way that companies have used with good success to secure insurance they can afford.
WHY IS SNOW REMOVAL INSURANCE SO HARD TO GET?
The answer is a slippery one. Literally.
Slip and fall litigation is on the rise, and property owners and municipalities have taken to transferring liability for these incidents to their third-party contractors. This has prompted insurance companies to increase the rates they charge snow removal companies for liability insurance. Many insurance companies are refusing to insure companies for snow plowing at all.
But it’s not all about slip and fall injuries. Incorrect plowing and de-icing can also cause considerable damage to property. Incorrectly piled snow at intersections can create blind spots that lead to car accidents. Poorly trained crews can damage plowing trucks. Long hours of shovelling can result in back injuries.
When claims are submitted for these incidents, whether they happened to your property and people or those of your customers, your insurance company has to pay. The higher the amount and greater the frequency of these payments, the less attractive insuring snow removal becomes. Add slip and fall liability to the mix and it’s a perfect storm.
THE PROVEN WAY TO GET PLOWING INSURANCE
Having a well-trained crew is the key to winning over an insurance company that’s reluctant to insure you for snow removal—and that’s because it helps reduce claims.
It’s strategy that’s working in Winnipeg, where the city requires contractors to respond directly to damage and injury claims they may have caused. In response to escalating incidents and claims, the association that represents snow contractors has created a mandatory orientation program for all operators, covering proper plowing techniques to minimize property damage.
To be most effective, the training should be formal, combine both theoretical and practical components, and be tested both in class and in the field. It should also be carefully documented, so your insurance company can feel confident that the program is more than an idea. The importance of detailed training records for both employees and subcontractors was emphasized by Landscape Ontario in their presentation on snow removal contracts, called “Managing Your Risk.” We would recommend recording the name of the employee, the date the training was completed, the specific courses they took and their exam score.
When you can go to your insurance company armed with proof that your crew knows what it’s doing, you’re much more likely to get insurance. You’re also less likely to need to call on that insurance in the first place.