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VIEWPOINT: Snow Removal & Insurance Issues for N.Y. Business Owners

By Steve Crobar

Date:

Winter in New York state brings picturesque snowscapes and the joy of seasonal festivities. However, for business owners, it also ushers in unique challenges that demand careful attention. Snow accumulation is not just an inconvenience; it can have far-reaching implications on safety and financial stability. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the essential aspects of snow removal and insurance considerations for New York business owners, shedding light on navigating the winter season safely and protecting your business effectively.

The impact of snow accumulation

New York’s diverse geography means that the state experiences a wide range of winter weather conditions, from heavy snowfall in upstate regions to icy conditions in downstate urban areas. The consequences of snow accumulation can be significant for businesses:

• Financial implications: The cost of snow removal, potential property damage, and business disruptions can strain a company’s finances. Efficient snow-removal services can be a substantial operational expense.

• Safety concerns: Accumulated snow and ice pose a risk to both employees and customers. Slip-and-fall accidents can result in costly liability claims, impacting a business’s reputation and bottom line.

• Operational disruptions: Snow accumulation can disrupt daily operations, leading to decreased productivity, delayed deliveries, and potential customer dissatisfaction.

Legal obligations

Business owners in New York state have legal obligations regarding snow removal and sidewalk maintenance:

• Local regulations: Many municipalities have ordinances that require property owners to clear sidewalks and parking lots within a specific timeframe after snowfall. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines.

• Liability: Business owners are responsible for maintaining safe premises. Negligence in snow removal can lead to liability claims if someone is injured on their property due to hazardous conditions.

• Contractual obligations: Lease agreements or contracts with tenants may outline specific responsibilities for snow removal. Business owners must adhere to these agreements to avoid legal disputes.

Insurance coverage

To safeguard your business from the financial repercussions of snow-related incidents, it’s crucial to understand your insurance-coverage options:

• Commercial general liability (CGL) insurance: CGL insurance typically covers bodily injury and property damage claims resulting from slip-and-fall accidents on your premises. However, it’s essential to review your policy to ensure it provides adequate coverage.

• Commercial-property insurance: This coverage can help repair or replace your building and its contents if they are damaged due to snow-related incidents like roof collapses or burst pipes.

• Business-interruption insurance: Business-interruption insurance can provide financial support if your business is temporarily unable to operate due to snow-related damage or closures.

• Workers’-compensation insurance: If employees are injured while performing snow-removal duties, workers’-compensation insurance can cover their medical expenses and lost wages.

Risk-mitigation strategies

To minimize the impact of snow accumulation on your business, consider the following risk-mitigation strategies:

• Proactive snow removal: Develop a snow-removal plan that outlines responsibilities, timelines, and procedures for snow removal and de-icing. Engage professional snow-removal services to ensure thorough and timely clearing of your property.

• Regular maintenance: Perform routine maintenance on your property, such as roof inspections to prevent snow accumulation and maintain heating systems to prevent frozen pipes.

• Documentation: Maintain records of your snow-removal efforts, including dates, times, and services performed. This documentation can be valuable in case of liability claims.

• Employee training: Educate your employees on snow-safety procedures and provide them with the necessary equipment to navigate icy surfaces safely.

Conclusion

Snow accumulation is an inevitable part of the winter season in New York state, but with careful planning and proactive measures, business owners can mitigate the associated risks and protect their assets. Understanding your legal obligations and insurance coverage is crucial, and a well-executed snow-removal plan can help ensure the safety of your employees and customers while maintaining the continuity of your operations.      


Steve Crobar is director of marketing at Security Mutual Insurance Co.