Snow removal insurance checklist: How to get affordable coverage

The cost of insuring snow and ice removal work has been increasing for several decades. While there’s no easy answer, there are ways for contractors to mitigate their risks, get insurance, and avoid exposure to a third-party personal injury lawsuit.

The cost of snow removal insurance coverage in Canada has risen to new heights in 2021. Though we’re still enjoying the summer warmth, it won’t be long before contractors with snow removal companies are faced with the cold of paying extremely expensive premiums or being forced to freeze their operations.

Inflation and a challenging economic environment are the reason why insurance rates are currently increasing. But the cost of insuring snow and ice removal operations has been rising for several decades.

What’s fueling the problem is our increasingly contentious society. The number of slip-and-fall lawsuits has increased dramatically in recent years, leaving insurers operating at a loss and prompting many to increase rates or drop coverage altogether. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that commercial liability insurance claims involving ice slip incidents increased 108 percent between 2013 and 2020, rising from $2.4 billion to $5.1 billion.

This presents a real dilemma for snow removal contractors, who range from small one-person operations clearing residential driveways and sidewalks to large contractors plowing commercial properties, roads and highways.

Tips to reduce your snow removal contractor’s liability

Here’s a cold hard fact: Getting snow removal insurance for the upcoming winter is going to be harder and more expensive than you’d like. Still, here are a few tips for contractors to mitigate their risks, get insurance, and avoid being exposed to a third-party personal injury lawsuit.

  • Don’t buy gear first. Before you spend several thousand dollars on snow removal equipment, make sure it’s a worthwhile investment by getting insurance and signing up customers first. Additionally, purchasing an annual policy that covers snow removal in the winter and landscaping in the summer tends to be cheaper and easier to obtain than seasonal insurance contracts.
  • Check your contracts carefully. Before entering into any snow and ice removal contract with a commercial customer, make sure you do not agree to accept more liability than you reasonably should. A loosely worded contract can slip you out of almost any mishap and put you at greater risk than an insurance company is willing to accept. Speak to a licensed broker before signing client contracts to understand what you are insured for and what could prove problematic.
  • Watch out for dangers. Take the time to identify, assess and minimize potential hazards on any property you clear. Since slip-up claims have become as popular as owning a cell phone, make efforts to reduce the risk of this happening to you. This is especially true on properties or areas such as public sidewalks and parking lots with heavy foot traffic.
  • Take care of your equipment. Make sure your snow removal vehicles and equipment are in excellent condition. Do not postpone regular or necessary maintenance work. Always do a safety check of your equipment before you start clearing snow.
  • Log every action on every object. Keep a logbook with an accurate account of your work and take photos or videos documenting what you did and when. For example, let’s say you are responsible for clearing and salting the parking lot of a large retailer. The weather was terrible overnight with heavy snowfall followed by freezing rain. They arrive at the property at 4:00am to clear and salt and depart at 4:30am. At 5:00 a.m. someone comes onto the property, gets out of their vehicle and walks around the property in old sneakers instead of winter boots. They fall, injure themselves and sue you for assaulting a third party. Good news: you have a log that shows you’ve kept your commitment to your client. This greatly reduces the chances of an insurer denying a claim you submit.
  • Make staff training a priority. If you have employees, train them whether they are experienced or not. Make sure they understand all health and safety requirements, plowing techniques, and how to operate the vehicles and equipment they use.
  • Choose snow pile locations carefully. Snow piles can present visibility and slip and fall hazards. Also, if they melt, they could flood properties, turn to black ice, or cause problems with street drainage.
  • Don’t work when you’re tired. Driving or operating snow removal equipment when tired is dangerous, especially when working overnight or before dawn. Drinking coffee won’t change that. Give yourself some rest before you start work.
  • Be a defensive driver. If you are licensed and contracted to clear municipal or provincial highways, obey the rules of the road, drive defensively, and be on the lookout for other vehicles and pedestrians along your route.

    Snow Removal Insurance: Don’t Plow Without It

Getting insurance at an affordable price is a mystery for snow removal contractors, and that reality is unlikely to change any time soon. However, running a snow removal business without insurance is not the answer.

The cost of an accident or lawsuit – even a frivolous one – without insurance coverage is enough to put you out of business permanently.

Aharshan Thangarasa is a licensed broker and team leader, contractor at Censurance, Canada’s leading source for small business insurance. Request a free quote for your insurance needs by visiting

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