By Jared Perkoski
From an insurance and risk management standpoint, snow and ice contractors cannot document enough. In this highly litigious society it has never been more important to keep track of all the information you can. Insurance carriers have moved to much stricter guidelines and documentation requirements when underwriting potential businesses. If you are unable to provide this data, you could be looking at higher premiums or be denied coverage altogether. Proper documentation will not only put you in the best position to obtain reasonably priced insurance, but it will also make your organization safer and can provide crucial defense information if a lawsuit arises.
Starting the process
Documentation should begin well before the first snowflakes hit the ground. All contractors should be doing preseason site inspections. While performing these inspections note any wet spots, depressions in pavements, and cracks or any other imperfections that could cause excess water to gather after snow has melted. You also want to note drainage issues. Take pictures of all problem areas being documented.
When meeting with the property manager after inspections, have them confirm in writing that they will address problems that you have identified. If they are not addressed by the time services are required at the property then you have a much better chance of pushing liability back onto the property manager if a slip and fall occurs in an area you previously identified and documented. Also, by noting any existing property damage you will have a record to refer to after the season if any property damage claims are made.
During a snow event, at minimum contractors have their employees use log books, logging the time they arrived on site and when they left. Though this is a good start, there is so much more documentation that should be done to protect the company from fraudulent slip and fall claims. When a contractor arrives to a site he or she should note the time they arrived as well as weather conditions, air temperature, ground temperature and whether the business is open or closed. Also, it is important to be precise when logging times in and out of a site so that it matches the GPS (if equipped) reports. This creates two layers of protection to prove that you were on site and managing the snow and ice. Rounding to the nearest 15 minutes or half an hour can create inconsistencies within the organization.
Postseason site inspections
After old man winter has finally decided to hang up his parka, contractors need to visit sites to do a final postseason inspection and once again document all they see. Make sure to note the same problem areas as were identified during the preseason site inspection. For one, that’s a check to see if the property manager repaired the spots; and second, it will indicate if the areas have worsened over winter. Make sure to take notes and pictures of any property damage whether caused by you or not. In the snow and ice management industry, particularly from a risk and insurance standpoint, there is no such thing as too much documentation.
Jared Perkoski is a risk advisor for FB Insure. Contact him at 508-695-1441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.