Since business insurance isn't generally a requirement, it's quite common to see companies go without coverage all year. Although this is a viable strategy when trying to cut down on operational costs, a personal injury that occurs on your property could wreak havoc on even the most fundamentally sound budgets and financial plans. If you are going to go without insurance, at least consider a temporary policy during the winter months.
The Safety of Your Customers and Employees
If you live in the Midwest, north, or eastern regions of the United States, then you're probably already well aware of the weather hazards you'll be facing during the winter months. Subzero temperatures, windy conditions, snowfall and even the build-up of ice all have the potential to cause accidents or injury on your property.
Those who live in warmer climates, particularly in the southern or western regions of the U.S., aren't spared the entirety of winter's wrath. The cycle of freezing, unthawing and then freezing again over the course of a few days can damage concrete walkways and foundations, which could result in injuries.
Minimizing such weather-related risks is relatively straightforward. Remove any snow accumulation from your business's sidewalks, walkways and parking lot. Ice can either be chipped away with hand tools or treated with rock salt. Sand or kitty litter can even be used in a pinch, which will provide improved traction for those walking and driving over icy surfaces.
Heated sidewalks are an option for businesses that want to preserve the integrity of their pedestrian footpaths over the course of time. Once reserved for driveways and patios of the rich and famous, some small cities have begun installing heated sidewalks next to popular streets and attractions. Not only does this minimize the risk of a snow- or ice-related accident, but some heating systems also utilize renewable or recyclable energy sources.
You might also consider adding a doorperson, greeter or general outside assistant to your workforce during this time of year. Apart from providing a rewarding seasonal job to the community, you'll be able to offer greater customer service and assistance when it is most needed. Offering such help, especially to those with limited mobility, could even prevent an injury.
If you plan on decorating for the holidays, as many businesses do, make sure to do it in a safe manner. There were more than 15,000 emergency room visits resulting from injuries involving holiday lights in 2014 alone, most of which stem from the hanging or installation of lights, the improper usage of climbing equipment or slipping and falling on icy surfaces.
The Longevity of Your Building
Although the weather-related risks to your customers should be of the utmost concern, they're not the only issues to consider. Just as strong winds and extreme snowstorms can cause injury to a person, they can also cause damage to property.
Commercial property insurance is meant for this very reason. While some companies differ on what kind of property is actually covered under such a policy, most plans protect the building itself, the surrounding property and business-related equipment. Some policies might extend to cover lost income, records and more.
Despite the benefits of commercial property insurance, it's still better to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place. There is nothing we can do to circumvent the whims of Mother Nature, but we can take steps to safeguard our property and equipment.
First, make sure to have your heating systems inspected thoroughly before the onset of the winter months. Check for the presence of insulation within walls, roofs and even around pipes. Repair or replace damaged hardware immediately.
After thoroughly examining the internal infrastructure of your building, switch your focus to the outside. Examine doors and windows for any cracks, damage or gaps between the frame and the surrounding wall. If necessary, use caulk to fill any open crevices. Not only will this result in improved heat retention within the building, but it can also improve the integrity and durability of windows and doors.
Business Interruption Insurance
Business interruption insurance can be especially useful during the winter. Although this is sometimes included in commercial property plans, many agencies offer it only as a supplementary service.
As the name implies, this type of insurance will compensate you in the event your regular business is interrupted for any reason whatsoever – including winter weather. However, it's important to note that this coverage goes hand-in-hand with that of your general policy. If your business isn't protected against one particular type of damage or another, such as that from a flood, then an extraneous business interruption plan isn't going to change that.
There are a lot of factors to consider before opting for this additional coverage. The size of your company is one of the biggest contributors to your monthly premium, while the type of business you specialize in will also have an impact. Those who are at a greater inherent risk of damage on account of the nature of their operations will have much higher costs than the average commercial store or retail outlet.
Insuring Your Home Business
Like other enterprises, home-based ventures are not required to maintain any sort of business insurance. However, since the ordinary home insurance policy doesn't provide any accommodations for your enterprise, it's another plan you might want to consider. In fact, companies have been known to cancel homeowner policies altogether in the event a claim is made on behalf of your home-based business.
Conversely, you might be able to add home business coverage to your existing homeowner plan. Sometimes referred to a rider or an endorsement, this supplementary plan can provide thousands of dollars in coverage with a relatively low impact on your monthly premiums.
Again, the nature of your company plays a huge role when determining whether or not home business insurance is necessary. Those who have little to no outside interaction with the public, especially within your own home, might be able to run a highly successful operation without ever obtaining insurance.
Home businesses that accept customers on a daily basis can protect their assets through such a policy. Given the unique hazards faced during the winter months, some rely on seasonal coverage to give them peace of mind – especially around the holidays.
Creating a Reputation Based on Safety
Maintaining an active business insurance policy is a great way to show your customers, employees and the surrounding community that you're dedicated to their safety. Although you won't be levied any fines or repercussions for failing to do so, the general public is bound to notice your efforts and thank you for your contributions.