Proper snow and ice removal can prevent costly general liability insurance claims due to injury

When winter weather arrives, the likelihood of serious injuries to customers and staff due to slips and falls on your premises greatly increases. Icy walking and driving conditions and snow in the parking lot outside of your business, on walkways, and pooled water on the floors inside of your retail store can bring serious claims against your business and livelihood.

Do you know your exposure when injuries occur? If you don’t own the building or property, check your lease agreement to see who is responsible for snow removal and winter care and maintenance of the parking lot and walkways outside of your business. If you lease the space, you may only be responsible for the walks immediately outside. However, you still should have a current General Liability Insurance policy to protect against claims brought by customers and staff.

Cold, wet weather including snow, rain, sleet and your typical northeastern wintry mix can turn your retail store’s parking lot and your aisles into skating rinks. To help prevent slips and falls due to ice, snow and other precipitation in your parking lot and any walkways, make sure to:

  • Repair in advance any damage to the parking or walking surfaces that could lead to someone tripping and falling, or twisting an ankle or knee. Winter weather freeze and thaw cycles will make these problems worse.
  • Plow and salt your parking lot as often as possible to keep accumulations to a minimum.
  • Clear ice and snow as soon as possible.
  • Keep parking lot drains clear so melted ice doesn’t pool and freeze again.
  • Post warning signs or barriers to block off dangerous areas when needed.
  • Make sure parking lot lighting is ample and working properly.

General Liability Insurance is especially important in the food and retail industries due to the frequency of slip and fall lawsuits. Often, grocery stores are responsible for the regular maintenance of their premises to eliminate holes, cracks, and defects that could create a tripping hazard.

Make sure your snow removal vendor is insured.

Snow removal contracts can get expensive. Does your snow removal vendor have a valid and current certificate of insurance? If you hire a contractor who is not insured, and someone makes a claim against you or that contractor, you may be held liable. Don’t cut corners and hire an uninsured contractor. You’ll only be putting your business, your employees and/or others at risk.

While a certified professional should know what he or she is doing, they still need direction to make sure they plow and remove snow in the safest way possible and to mitigate risk. For example, piling the snow anywhere near the entry and exit of your parking lot creates a hazard because drivers can’t see oncoming traffic over the snow mountains. Nor should they push the snow out of your parking lot and pile it up across the street on someone else’s property.

Select a safe section of the parking lot where snow can be piled to reduce the chance of fender benders. Also, go over any potential hazards the contractor needs to be aware of, such as storm drains, curbing, light poles, speed bumps, dumpsters, fire hydrants, etc. A brief consultation with you snow removal contractor is a few minutes well spent before the stormy winter season begins.

Do you have the general liability insurance protection you need to survive winter?

Make sure you have the proper amount of General Liability Insurance you need to protect your business in the event of injuries to customers and staff due to slips and falls. SEI can help. To schedule an appointment with a General Liability Insurance expert, call SEI at 877.237.2481 or fill out our contact form here.