If you take snow removal contracts to keep your landscaping income from freezing during the winter, you know all too well that plowing insurance is getting more difficult to obtain and more expensive to carry. A formal, documented training program is an excellent way to deal with a host of challenges in the landscaping trade, including obtaining insurance. This article offers four real-world examples of insurance claims made against snow removal companies, with information on how crew training could help you avoid them in your business.
CLAIM EXAMPLE # 1: SALT DAMAGE
This example comes from an article in Snow Magazine on insurance liability. In early spring, the property manager of a commercial complex discovers that grass, ornamental trees and other landscaping near pedestrian walkways have been destroyed. He blames the snow removal company, who was responsible for de-icing the property the previous winter. The snow removal company acknowledges that the damage is due to its salting practices and submits a claim for $35,000 to its insurance company.
The training advantage. This situation was preventable. Snow removal training should include instructions for correctly applying ice melter. Our “Winter Walkways” course, for example, emphasizes the toxicity of ice melters to plants and warns against over application. It also teaches the correct walkway clearing procedure to protect plants: to always salt after shoveling.
But it isn’t just the frontline crews that need training. Supervisors, managers and owners have a role to play in ensuring that “no salt” areas on customers’ properties are properly identified and marked in order to protect plants and waterways—particularly in environmentally sensitive areas. (This point is covered in our “Snow Site Engineering and Planning” course.)
CLAIM EXAMPLE #2: SLIP AND FALL
This example, taken from a slip and fall case in Nova Scotia, emphasizes the importance of documentation.
A Walmart customer falls on ice in the parking lot after finishing her shopping and sues both the property owner and the snow removal company. Because the snow removal company shows documentation of reasonable efforts to keep the area free of ice, the judge dismisses the claim. Had the snow removal company not been able to show policies, procedures and records to demonstrate its reasonable efforts, the outcome would’ve been very different.
The training advantage: Well-trained crews will know how to apply de-icer to walkways and stairs and how to plow and salt parking lots to minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents. They will also be trained in how to keep accurate records. Our “Essential Snow Plowing Techniques” course, for example, teaches the exact way to approach every job site, including what information to record in a logbook and the importance of keeping good notes if you don’t follow the plan set out for the property. It walks students through two specific scenarios: a retail parking lot when the store is closed and when it is open.
CLAIM EXAMPLE #3: DAMAGE TO YOUR EQUIPMENT
Plowing equipment is expensive and prone to damage. One plowing company owner, who was interviewed for an article on the increase in snow removal insurance costs, estimated that his out-of-pocket expenses to replace transmissions and fix other equipment damage were routinely around $10,000 U.S. a season. To avoid the stress and expense of uninsured losses, insurance companies recommend businesses obtain both collision and comprehensive insurance for their plowing equipment. As we know too well, a history of claims will result in higher rates and the possibility that you won’t be able to get plowing insurance at all.
The training advantage: A key way to minimize equipment damage is to formally train your plowing employees on the correct way to operate plows. The Greenius training video “Snow Plowing Safety and Prep,” for example, covers a full equipment check, including fluid levels, tire pressure and the plow itself. Students also learn how to transport the plow to minimize the risk of the engine overheating, how to park to minimize stress on hydraulic components, how to reduce electrical drain and how to leave the truck at the end of the shift to protect equipment. “Essential Snow Plowing Techniques” also has a section specifically on protecting the truck’s transmission. Your crew training should offer specific information on specialty equipment, for example, box and wing plows and how to properly use a skid steer in snow.
CLAIM EXAMPLE #4: INJURY TO EMPLOYEES
In 2015, a worker fell to his death through a skylight while shoveling snow off a roof. That incident, plus several others, prompted OSHA to issue an alert on the risks of snow removal work, including electrical hazards, body strain, hypothermia and falls.
On-the-job hazards are compounded, according to OSHA, by extreme weather and crews that lack training and experience. Workplace injuries result in high personal costs to employees and their families and high business costs to employers, whose mod rate is based on their historical loss and payroll data.
The training advantage: Both the Snow and Ice Management Association and Insurance Information Institute recommend safety training as an important way to lower the amount you pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
According to an article in Turf Magazine the Snow and Ice Management Association advises snow removal businesses to implement a safety training program for all new hires which includes regular refreshers and hands-on training at customers’ sites. The Insurance Information Institute says insurance companies want proof of the quality and frequency of your safety-oriented training programs.
We believe that safety is a critical aspect of every job, and it is a component of every one of our training courses. Our course “Winter Walkways,” for example, includes detailed information on dressing for work, safe shovelling, protective equipment, staying hydrated and safe driving in winter weather.
So there you have it—four real-world examples where training could prevent insurance claims. Provide evidence to your insurance company that you have a high-quality, formal training program that teaches employees how to prevent damage to property, equipment and people. It’s among the best ways to be considered a “good risk” when it comes to coverage for your snow removal business.