Fall is a great time to prepare your business for the transition to colder temperatures, shorter days, and the hazards that come with it. As pretty as the fall foliage is, it also signals different risk factors that can impact your business in unique ways. To help you get ready, we’ve put together these small business insurance tips so you can avoid autumn insurance claims and stay running through the fall and beyond.
Tip #1 – Do You Know Your Business Risks?
Operating any type of business comes with inherent, unique risks. If you know your risks ahead of time, you can better determine which types of insurance policies will deliver the coverage you need.
Once you’ve identified your specific risk factors, you can create an action plan to mitigate those risks. This should be a written document that addresses the hazards you’ve identified and how to overcome them. You’ll also need to train your staff on what to do.
Working with one of our local agents can help you mitigate those risks economically, keep your insurance costs in check, and ensure that you don’t have any coverage gaps.
Tip #2 – Lighting & Landscaping
As the days get shorter, proper lighting becomes ever more important. Make sure sidewalks, parking lots, and other walkways are well-lit to prevent injuries like slips and falls. This also includes entries and exits, as well as emergency lighting for the interior and exterior of your building.
Proper lighting can help alert staff, customers, and vendors to hazardous conditions such as wet leaves and icy walkways before they result in an injury.
You’ll also want to clear overhanging trees or branches that can get heavy with snow and ice and fall on your building or into parking areas. Branches are notorious for snapping when you least expect it and falling on electrical lines.
To help prevent one of the most common insurance claims—slips and falls—inspect parking lots, interior and exterior walkways, loading docks, and entry and exit points for hazards before winter. Potholes in the pavement, crumbling stairs, and ice build-up from leaky gutters can cause injury but are generally easy and inexpensive to repair.
Tip #3 – Prepare for Spring Weather
With the severity of seasonal weather increasing every year due to climate change, it makes sense for you, as a business owner, to be proactive in protecting your livelihood. Assess the physical location of your business for one of the most common autumn insurance claims—water damage—and don’t wait until winter!
Inclement weather can freeze pipes, topple trees, damage roofs, and break windows, while high winds and heavy rain can back up gutters and find penetrations in roofs. If air can get in, there’s a good chance water can as well.
Therefore, being proactive in taking the following actions to maintain your physical place of business can help reduce your chances of having to file an insurance claim. It’s important to know that your business insurance policies may not cover gradual damage due to neglect, so being proactive and catching small issues before they become big ones can save you significant amounts of money in the long run.
- Identify water pipes in exterior walls, ceilings, or basements that may freeze. If you think they could freeze, insulate them.
- Properly insulate water pipes.
- Check indoor water valves, sinks, and toilets, for leaks.
- Check attics, crawlspaces, windows, exterior doors, side walls, and other potential problem spots for penetrations.
- Check your heating system thermostats to ensure your building maintains a core temperature on the coldest days.
- Have a professional plumber inspect the condition of your plumbing systems annually.
- Clear areas around electrical rooms, HVAC systems, and water supply closets to improve response time in an emergency.
- Shut off the water supply to outdoor water spigots, lawn sprinkler systems, and drain hoses.
- Check the condition of your exterior pipes. If you notice a dip in water pressure, it could mean your pipes are blocked. A professional plumber can troubleshoot any issues before the ground freezes, saving you money on repairs and avoiding the hassle of business interruptions.
- Checking and cleaning out your drainage systems, such as gutters, roof drains, and other places where water flows away from your building, can help prevent water damage and ice dams.
- Clear debris like leaves and pine needles from sensitive areas such as HVAC equipment, gutters, and drains.
- Check your roof for loose shingles, rips, and damage.
- If you have a flat roof, clear it of debris like fallen leaves to help prevent puddling and deterioration.
Properly insulating your building with weather stripping, insulation, ice-melting wire, pipe insulation, and foam can reduce your heating bills and your chances of filing an insurance claim.
Tip #4 – Service Your Heating System
Call your local HVAC pro before the cold weather sets in!
You want to be sure your heating system is ready to contend with inclement weather, avoid steep repair and replacement costs, and get the comfort you need to operate effectively.
Mice can chew through wires, while dirt and debris can suffocate your HVAC system. The resulting wear and tear can lead to catastrophic failure when you least expect it. An HVAC specialist can ensure that your system is running efficiently and isn’t going to break down when you need it most: on the coldest days of the year.
Operating your HVAC system without annual preventive maintenance is like driving your car without changing the oil. A good rule of thumb is to have HVAC service conducted bi-annually: in the Spring and the Fall. Maintenance will ensure that your system operates at peak efficiency during all seasons.
If you give your HVAC system the care it deserves, you’ll extend its lifespan by years. This includes installing new filters, replacing worn parts, and keeping the area around your HVAC equipment clear of debris like bark mulch, plants, and bushes.
Tip #5 – Space Heaters
Many older buildings don’t keep the heat in very well, and employees have different thresholds for what they consider a comfortable temperature. It’s not uncommon to find personal space heaters under desks, in offices, and common areas such as conference rooms.
According to the US Fire Administration, space heater fires cause 65 deaths and 150 injuries a year. The leading cause is placing a unit too close to flammable objects, but they can also cause electric shocks or produce carbon monoxide gas.
Space heater guidelines for your staff can help reduce your chances of having to file an insurance claim by preventing injury to personnel and damage to your property.
- Limit the use of space heaters.
- If space heaters are allowed, ensure employees get management approval for units approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
- Space heaters should be at least 3 feet (36 inches) away from any other object.
- Place space heaters on flat, stable surfaces.
- Do not allow space heaters in areas where flammable or combustible materials are located.
- Do not place space heaters in high-traffic areas that may cause tripping hazards.
- Electrical cords must not be frayed or damaged in any way.
- Space heaters must be plugged into wall outlets and never into a power strip or extension cord; they can overheat and lead to a fire.
- Never leave space heaters unattended.
- Shut off space heaters when employees leave the area.
- Unplug all space heaters at the end of the workday.
- Inspect space heaters routinely for signs of malfunction, especially on older devices.
- Verify all controls are operating properly.
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are functioning properly. Test them monthly.
Tip #6 – Prepare Your Drivers
Wet leaves and icy conditions on roadways can create hazards for your drivers. In addition, as the days get shorter and visibility decreases, it’s important to ensure your drivers are engaged in safe driving practices.
Leaving plenty of space between your company vehicle and the one in front of it, instructing drivers to be extra cautious, and conducting vehicle pre-trip inspections are a given. But there’s another hazard you may not have considered: animal collisions.
You may be thinking, “What are the odds of that?”
Well, the chances of this happening to one of your drivers in Vermont was 1 in 90 in 2022-23. For New Hampshire, it was 1 in 130.
Both states are considered “medium risk” states for animal collisions, so it can and does happen. Therefore, it’s important to consider this risk factor regarding your drivers and company vehicles.
As natural areas are increasingly developed for human settlement, deer, foxes, raccoons, and other animals have to move, often settling near houses and roadways. Fall is also when many animals are more active, seeking food, shelter, and mates, so accidents tend to rise during autumn.
The best way to avoid costly out-of-pocket expenses is to talk to one of our local agents to make sure your business is adequately covered in the event of an animal collision.
Will your business insurance cover your autumn risks?
Are there gaps you might not be aware of in your business insurance policies? Are your risk factors adequately covered?
*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-Op Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn more about how we can help with your insurance needs.