Snow Removal Contractors, Avoid the Slippery Slope–Control Risks During Snow and Ice Management

Posted in: Commercial Insurance

As a landscape contractor, one of the trickiest aspects of running and protecting your operation surrounds snow and ice management. Thanks to Mother Nature, your business is likely at a higher risk in the winter months than any other time of year—there are so many things that can go wrong, from employees getting hurt, equipment being damaged, to your entire business being liable for a loss. With so many potential areas of vulnerability, it’s important to control your risks during snow and ice management.

Follow these essential, practical tips to help reduce your risk, potential claims, and costly lawsuits this winter.

Proactively reducing risk prior to snow and ice removal

Thinking ahead and eliminating any possible risks before they happen is the best way to start protecting your business. Here are some steps you can take to control your risks during snow and ice management before your crews ever hit the roads.

  • Prioritize preventive maintenance of equipment. Test and winterize the snow removal equipment several days prior to the anticipated snow and ice removal.
  • Train and educate employees. Develop standard operating procedures and make sure your team can safely operate necessary equipment.
  • Contact your subcontractors or your employees who will be managing the snow removal. Make sure they are also aware of and prepared for the imminent inclement weather conditions. You do not want to find out at the last minute that one of your main subcontractors or some of your critical employees are not available.
  • Have a written plan and map for each client indicating where trouble spots are, pointing out heavily traveled areas, and designating where to put snow piles.
  • Look for expected problem areas such as poor lighting, low spots, and pot holes—and communicate these to the property owner. Put the needed repairs in writing and take photographs of the problem areas.
  • Keep thorough and specific documentation for each client — location, start and finish times, crew members involved, weather conditions, and condition of the area to be cleaned.

Managing risk during snow and ice removal

Follow these steps to mitigate your risks when completing a job.

  • Keep an eye on the radar and any storm developments with websites like accuweather.com or https://weather.com/. Also, consider downloading a weather app, such as AccuWeather or The Weather Channel, to get updates on-the-go.
  • Have pre-determined routes for each crew. These should be geographically grouped to eliminate unnecessary travel between sites. Continuous communication between the dispatcher and area supervisors keeps everyone informed of field conditions, progress of plowing operations, and events such as equipment breakdowns or changes in the storm’s intensity.
  • Keep open lines of communication with your customers to help you determine if you need to call in additional crew and when and where they need to be dispatched.
  • Ensure customer satisfaction by relocating snow piles as necessary and reapplying de-icing materials to melt any remaining ice.

Managing risk after snow and ice removal

After the job is done, follow these steps to confirm that the client is happy and your business is protected.

  • Inspect sites after work has been completed to ensure quality control, and be sure you and your managers are available to address clients’ questions and concerns.
  • Require prompt submission of any paperwork. Make sure that subcontractors submit their hours immediately and check that their records match those of the contractors so that there are no discrepancies in your records or payroll issues later.

The primary risk facing snow and ice management contractors is being at the mercy of Mother Nature. The practical guidelines discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg for what you should be doing to keep your employees and clients safe while also protecting your business. If you want to talk through more strategies for effectively controlling risks during snow and ice management, email me at jeffw@psafinancial.com.

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