The Most Common Insurance Risks For Plumbing Contractors

Plumber thinking about lost tools, lost inventory, and accidents on the job.

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The onset of winter generally signals a boon for Ontario’s 7,000 or so licensed plumbers as winter takes its toll on building and house piping and fixtures. On the surface, plumbing seems to be a relatively safe livelihood, however, a closer look at the potential physical and financial risks plumbers face paints a different picture.

The most obvious risk exposure for plumbers is liability resulting from damage caused to a premise during a work contract. But, the reality is that liability is just the tip of the iceberg as part of a myriad mix of risk exposures, the more typical being lost/stolen tools and inventory, damage to vehicles, and injuries incurred by workers on the job site.

The good news is that there is insurance coverage available for nearly every conceivable risk. What really matters, however, is “knowing your insurance” in terms of what is covered and what policy limits are in place. This article highlights the perils and types of insurance coverages plumbers should consider.

What you need to know about insurance and your risk exposures

Most risks plumbers are exposed to are likely included in a general commercial policy which consists of both property and liability coverage. These policies are known as plumbers’ contractors insurance as the wording is specific to the plumbing industry.

Plumbing contractor equipment and tools
After liability, the biggest loss risk for plumbers is lost or stolen tools and/or inventory

Other than liability exposure, the biggest loss for plumbers (whether the contractor or most likely sub-contractor) is lost or stolen tools and/or inventory (such as piping) from the worksite, says Alex Gemmiti, a senior broker at Mitchell & Whale Insurance. “Liability and loss of tools and equipment are critical components that should be included in an insurance policy.”

Just as importantly, plumbers should pay close attention to policy “sublimits”, according to Gemmiti. A policy may have an aggregate coverage limit of $50,000 but typically it would include sublimits specific to certain losses. For instance, the same $50,000 policy may have a sublimit of $5,000 for loss of tools or inventory.

Types of Different Insurance Coverages to Consider

  • Commercial liability – The most costly risk exposure plumbers face is potential damage to property at the worksite. The financial cost of a single incident could exceed $50,000, the typical limit of a plumbers’ policy. As such, plumbers should pay close attention to their policy limits, conditions as well as the deductible in place (the upfront cost of the insured in the event of a claim). Plumbers should note that general commercial insurance only covers damage to property and not the work completed prior to the incident. The cost of reinstalling would be incurred by the plumber.
  • Loss of tools and/or inventory – Due to the high incidence of loss resulting from lost or stolen tools and materials at worksites, plumbers cannot afford not to purchase this coverage. Tools coverage not only applies to a worksite loss, but also a plumber’s work premises as well as items stolen from a vehicle used for work (a commercial auto policy only covers the vehicle and not the contents). An installation clause within the policy would cover any loss of inventory (such as piping) stored at a worksite until installation is completed.
  • Combine commercial liability with commercial auto – A vehicle used to get to various worksites would have to be insured under a commercial policy. Plumbers can simplify their insurance needs and also save money by combining their commercial liability policy with auto insurance. This will result in only one deductible applying to the combined coverage with the added benefit of a premium discount.
  • Workers’ compensation – Worksites can often be hazardous resulting in injuries to workers. This coverage would cover the costs of employees unable to perform their duties due to a workplace injury.
  • Errors and omissions (E&O) coverage for independent contractors – This insurance provides a contractor, or sub-contractor, with protection from alleged professional negligence. Such circumstance could arise if you provided advice to a client which resulted in a loss or property damage. E&O would kick in should the client take legal action against you.
  • Business interruption insurance – For independent or smaller plumbing businesses one of the greatest risks is personal injury or a workplace loss that results in the operator not being able to work. This could be a bodily injury, theft of equipment, or any number of perils (such as water and fire) occurring at the plumber’s premises. Business interruption coverage would enable the plumber to recover from the financial loss and get the business back on its feet.

Most of the above insurance coverage can be applied as “add-ons”, a.k.a. endorsements, to a general commercial policy. In many instances (depending on past claims experience) these additional coverages can be purchased for only a few dollars more than the premium of the main commercial policy. However, due to the intricacies involved with coverage limits, deductibles, conditions and terms of constructing a complex insurance package, plumbers should consult a broker before committing to any decisions.

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