By Tim Sweeney
In the snow and ice industry, there should be no question that a strong insurance policy is important. From slip and fall claims on the rise to personal injury attorneys looking to strike during the winter, we cannot look at insurance through the myopic lens we’ve used in the past. You work hard to grow your company with sales, retain business with sound operations and protect your profit with a sound insurance policy, knowing that every loss takes a bite out of your bottom line.
Document, document, document
It’s 2016 and most likely your cell phone with a camera, email access and recording device is sitting next to you as you read this article. These tools are valuable forms of communication that will reduce liability directly and can enhance any business relationship. Preseason photo-graphs and reporting create a baseline for how the property has been maintained. They expose needed repairs and/or potential hazards that immediately reduce the risk of an incident occur-ring on that property, becoming your sole responsibility.
In season, documentation validates services rendered and clearly demonstrates a pattern of reasonable care. Again, as long as your services meet industry expectations, this proof of service can only strengthen your case against a frivolous slip and fall claim. My assumption is, however, that the previously described processes are not groundbreaking solutions unfamiliar to you. Why not take pictures and do a little paperwork, if documentation can strengthen the relation-ships with your customer and insurance carrier and reduce your business liability as a whole? Because we are human, instinctively looking to shirk the work. Yes, it may take a few extra seconds in the middle of a route to snap a photo or send a customer a timely email. And yes, most of the pictures, emails and voice notes will be filed away and never really needed. But this is your business, your livelihood, our industry. So, do your fellow snow fighters and the industry as a whole a favor and make this process of documentation a habit. I promise you will find yourself in a much better position when the inevitable claim comes knocking and over time will affect change within the entire snow industry.
Transparency is the best policy
Regional and national level snow contractors specifically target service partners that invest in solid insurance programs that mirror coverages required of them by the large national accounts. If national vendors provide you a part of your book of business, find out what the supplying vendor requires. When a service partner proactively submits a certificate of insurance (COI), it indicates that they are organized, professional and willing to invest in the future of their company.
Be honest, have you ever been awarded a legitimate contract without proof of insurance? The answer is no. But year after year, I prepare for the “Great COI Chase.” And I’m not talking about a trendy annual 5K mud run. It is, however, a terrible start to any business partnership. Early submission of required documents also allows me to work with a company to shore up any deficiencies in the policy; this is impossible if submission doesn’t happen until the first flake falls.
From national vendors to our valued customers and our insurance agents to the carriers protecting us from loss, the entire snow industry is requiring greater attention to detail. It’s how we document our work, the quality of insurance we purchase and the communication among all working parts inside of this industry. Will your company take that extra minute and commit to improving our industry?
- It may be a pain, but documentation of service and pre-existing damage can help protect you against liability and reparation claims.
- If you work for a national or regional service provider, be proactive in providing certificates of insurance. It will elevate you in the vendor’s eye and allow them to ensure everything is in order.
- Greater attention to detail by all stakeholders will help elevate the status of the professional snow management industry.
Tim Sweeney is risk and regional manager for Case Snow Management. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.