Landscaping is a little different than most other contracting businesses. If you’re a roofer, plumber or drywaller, you’re working directly on a house or commercial building, so there’s a lot of opportunity for property damage claims.
Accidents happen on the job, and those accidents often cause damage to windows, walls, cabinets, floors etc. Because landscapers work outside and don’t work directly on or in buildings, property damage claims are very rare.
You would think this means that landscapers pay very little for insurance. The fact is the opposite is true. Insurance for landscape contractors is more expensive than for most other contractors, and the reason is injuries. Not to your workers. That would usually be covered by WSIB. No, injuries to passersby. The claims are not usually very big, but there are a lot of them, and the cost adds up.
Why Do Landscaping Firms Face Injury Claims?
Because your landscaping business does its work outdoors, it’s very difficult to restrict access to your work area. If you’re working on a home, residents, visitors and even people walking their dogs can stumble upon your work site, and stumble over rakes, paving stones or a mound of dirt. If you work on commercial jobs, it can be even worse. You could be working at a park, a museum or an arena, where people come and go almost constantly.
During your workday, you may be able to use pylons and fencing to discourage passersby from entering a particular area, but if it’s a multi-day job, it’s very difficult to secure an outdoor area overnight.
Did you know?
You take all the recommended measures to secure your work area, and you take great pains to train your staff on safety on site. Kudos. This reduces the chances of a claim, but don’t kid yourself. An injury doesn’t need to be your fault for you to get pulled into a claim. Even if someone is trespassing after-hours, and hurts themselves while on your work site, Canadian courts have been known to assign at least partial liability to businesses like yours, even if the business and its workers took all possible precautions.
Common Claim Scenario
Your crew is working a new interlocking stone pathway at a local public garden. The garden remains open during the work. One afternoon, a young child who is not properly supervised decides to scramble up a pile of earth that was displaced as part of the job. You have signage all around, alerting the public to the danger, and temporary fencing around the area. The kid slips around the end of the fencing, climbs the mound, proclaims “I’m the king of the castle”, then proceeds to fall, fracturing his arm and collarbone.
Total claim: $23,000
Tips For Avoiding Claims
Injury claims are very difficult to avoid for landscaping businesses, because you work in open spaces, sometimes with a lot of foot traffic, and those feet are often connected to less-than-brilliant people. Regardless, you and your team can and should take the following measures to reduce the risk:
- Train your staff on workplace safety.
- Ensure all tools are put away when not in use.
- Use signage, temporary fencing and pilons to discourage people from wandering into dangerous areas.
- Secure work sites when you leave for the day. Remove all tools.
- Use your smartphone to take a photo of signage and barriers on the site, in case your safety measures come into question.
Landscapers Insurance Usually Includes Coverage For:
- General liability (protecting your business from lawsuits like the ones described above caused by bodily injury or property damage)
- Tools and equipment (protecting hand tools and larger equipment like riding mowers)
Other Coverage to Consider:
- Commercial Auto Insurance – Whether you have company vans or you use your personal vehicle for work, you need commercial auto insurance.
- Commercial Property Insurance – If you have an office or shop, you need commercial property insurance to protect the building (if you own it), and the stuff inside.
- Cyber and Data Breach Insurance – If you rely on computer systems to keep your business going, or if you keep sensitive client data, you may need this coverage.
- Legal Expense Insurance – If your work is likely to result in legal disputes (with customers, employees or subcontractors), this coverage gives you access to professional legal advice, and can even help pay for defending yourself in court or taking legal action against others.
Learn more about Ontario landscapers insurance.
(Our thanks to Steve Schmelzle from RSA Insurance, one of our trusted contractors insurance partners, who agreed to share his expertise for this piece.)