Post written by Mike Almes
As a property owner, it’s critical to keep your commercial property free of ice and snow during the winter season. Maintaining a safe and “customer friendly” facility will mitigate risk of accident, and will keep tenants happy. Some property owners choose to handle this task themselves; others find it beneficial to hire a snow and ice removal company. Oftentimes, owners hire the same company that handles the landscaping.
If you choose to hire a contractor for snow and ice removal, there are a few common hazards of which to be aware. Primarily, there can be a false sense of protection. Some assume that the liability has all been transferred to the hired company since they’ve enlisted a contractor; however, this isn’t always the case. Property owners can also be liable for the actions of a snow removal contractor if a number of risk management activities are not in place.
Hiring a Snow Removal Contractor
Below are key risk management issues for property owners to consider when snow removal contractors are hired to perform the work. These include proper certificates of insurance from the snow removal team, formal contracts and ongoing documentation of work.
Certificates of Insurance from Snow Removal Contractor
- Are certificates of insurance obtained prior to having snow removal work accomplished?
- Are certificates of insurance reviewed to confirm that the snow removal contractor is obtaining liability coverage and adequate limits?
- Does the certificate of insurance include an “additional insured” endorsement, including the additional insured endorsement number?
- Does the contract require notice of cancellation be sent in the event that there are changes in the snow removal contractor’s coverage?
- Are certificates of insurance updated annually?
Formal, Written Contracts
- Is there a written contract in place with the snow removal contractor?
- Has the contract been reviewed by an attorney familiar with contractual risk transfer best practices?
- Have the contract requirements been reviewed with your professional insurance advisor to assure that hold harmless, indemnification, waivers of subrogation and workers compensation exclusivity clauses satisfy insurer and state requirements?
- Is the contract clear on exactly what services are provided, such as who is responsible for the decision to sand/salt, or when access to the parking lot or property is limited, etc?
- Does the contract include where snow will be piled (ex. around light posts in a parking lot) but not so that it thaws then refreezes to create icy conditions?
- Does the contract contain a refreeze clause?
- How will damage to property or surfaces be corrected?
- Does the snow removal contractor provide treatment logs?
- Have you scheduled a meeting with the contractor to take inventory of equipment to be used, and to review the snow and ice removal plan?
- In the event of an incident, does the snow removal contractor have blank copies of an incident report form? Also, have they been trained on how to complete the form?
This article is simply a snapshot of the risk involved and the controls you can utilize. There is an organization – Snow & Ice Management Association – that provides helpful guidelines for members, which can also provide insight and sample contracts, safety training, etc.
Are you a property owner? Do you have experience with a snow removal company? Please feel free to share your tips or insight in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!