Specialized Business Insurance & Risk Management Blog

Safety Tips that Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Stress and Illness

Safety Tips that Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Stress and IllnessThe physical demands of outdoor work and extreme heat is a dangerous combination.  Landscape, tree service, construction, and other  outdoor workers spend hours under the hot sun, making them more vulnerable to heat stroke, exhaustion, dehydration, and other serious health problems.  This is not only bad for their health, but bad for your business too.

Heat stress and related illnesses have been one of the many occupational hazards OSHA aims to prevent.  In May 2015, for example, the State of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) changed employer requirements to better protect agricultural and other outdoor workers from illnesses related to heat exposure.  This includes stricter regulations.

To avoid violating OSHA regulations and control hazards, enforcing safety procedures is your best bet.  Below we list some tips for protecting your workers from these heat-related health problems.

Safety Tips for Working in Hot Temperatures

  • Dress cool.  Wear light-colored, breathable clothing and a hat.
  • Stay hydrated. Thirsty or not, drink water every 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Take breaks. Rest in the shade when possible.  Eat during lunch or other breaks to re-fuel.
  • Watch your workers’ backs. Keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion and other heat illnesses.
  • Have a response plan. Know which steps to take if a worker shows symptoms of heat illness.

Each employee should be trained in safety procedures, including recognizing and controlling hazards, and steps to take in an emergency.  By creating a safe working environment, your workers are better protected from harm and the risk of a costly claim is significantly reduced.  If a health problem does occur even after following safety procedures, an insurance plan with workers’ comp will cover medical costs, foregone wages, and other related costs to take the heat off of your business financially.

NIP Group’s insurance programs include comprehensive workers’ comp to back you up financially so your employees can focus on restoring their health and you can continue growing your business.  Click the links below for more information or contact your broker.

LandPro Insurance >

For landscape and lawn care professionals

TreePro Insurance >

For arborists and tree service professionals

GrowPro Insurance >

For greenhouse and plant grower professionals






Found a Negative Online Review of Your Commercial Business? Here’s How to Respond


Respond to a Negative Online Review of Your BusinessA negative online review of your services could discourage other prospective clients from hiring your commercial business.  In a study by Dimensional Research, 88 percent of respondents said they “have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.”  Not so good for your bottom line.  Don’t panic just yet, though – a quick response coupled with some TLC (tender loving care) can help turn a negative review into a positive.

A bad review can happen to even the most reliable service businesses, whether it’s from a dissatisfied client (warranted or not) or a sneaky competitor using a fake name.  Monitoring both social media and service review websites helps you gauge customer satisfaction and your reputation.  It also enables you to showcase your company values to the World Wide Web and do damage control if an online user writes a less-than-stellar review.

Below we provide some helpful response tips for maintaining a positive reputation when an unexpected bad review is written for the world to see.

Step 1: Breathe

Your passion as a business owner makes any feedback more personal.  While it’s normal human response to get defensive, staying positive will get you the best outcome.  Remember, “the customer is always right” (even if they’re wrong).

After seeing a nasty review, collect your thoughts first and then respond in a professional way.

Step 2: Show You Care

It’s important to remember that other prospective clients browsing the web will read your reply.  To make a personal connection with the reviewer, send a private message first, if possible, before posting a public reply.  A thoughtful, prompt response communicating a solution to resolve their complaint can restore your reputation.  Offering a refund or discount on their next purchase doesn’t hurt either.

For example, a reviewer complained about a delay in your cleaning or janitorial service.  Although this delay may have been due to an unavoidable situation, such as an unexpected equipment malfunction or bad traffic, this is the chance to highlight your company values, not to backlash.  Your reply could include an acknowledgement of their complaint, a statement that reinforces your company’s commitment to customer satisfaction, and how you will rectify the problem or who to contact for resolution.

Step 3: Take the Good with the Bad, and then Learn from It

Comments about your business on review sites, both positive and negative, can be used to improve your product or service.  Make it a learning experience.  For example, incorporate negative reviews into your employee training with steps to prevent future issues.  Highlight positive reviews to keep up the good work.

Rectifying a negative online review doesn’t end with these steps, however.  If given another chance, make sure the client’s next experience with your business meets or exceeds expectations.  Follow up with them after service to see how it went.  By being responsive and showing you care both online and offline, you can help influence other prospects into becoming clients.

How did you handle a negative online review?





How to Get a Business Insurance Claim Resolved More Efficiently


Get a Business Insurance Claim Resolved More EfficientlyAccording to a recent study by The Hartford, four out of ten small businesses will experience a property or general liability claim within the next ten years.  Knowing which steps to take when an unexpected situation happens, including theft, property damage, and injuries, can save you a lot of headache and time.  To get fair resolution of a claim through a more efficient process, prompt response and preparation are required.

Below we’ve detailed the steps that will help you move along the claims process more smoothly.

Before an Incident

Following a risk management plan, including safety procedures, can help prevent a claim from occurring. However, even the most careful businesses can face loss or damages.  For this, preparation is important to ensure you’ll be covered financially.

  • Review your insurance policies so you know exactly what is covered and if these terms fit your business needs
  • In case of a claim, store your insurance policy, including policy number and expiration date, and the contact information of your insurance provider in a safe place

Reporting a Claim

Failure to report theft, property damage, injuries, or other incidents right away drags out the claims process and, if evidence is lost, could compromise how much you’re covered financially.

  • Contact law enforcement to file a police report and request a copy of the report
  • Contact your insurance company to have a claim filed immediately
  • Have a surveillance camera or digital camera readily available for documenting evidence to support your claim
  • Make a list of any stolen or damaged items for your insurance company
  • For any damages, get multiple estimates for repair costs and confirm with your insurance provider when repairs can be made

After a Claim is Filed

Save all copies of the evidence, police reports, and claim information.  When you can, communicate in writing for documentation.  After the claim is filed, there are more steps that may need to be taken to get fair resolution.

  • If you have a business interruption insurance policy, document the length of time your operations are shut down (e.g., from building fire damage) and income lost during that time period for later compensation
  • Ask your insurance provider for a cash advancement if money is needed to get your operations running again before the claim is settled
  • Follow up routinely with your insurance provider to keep track of progress

At NIP Group, our dedicated claims expert reviews each claim routinely to ensure they are being handled properly and promptly.  Through a customer-focused network, we’ll update you about the status of a claim, assist you with loss control, and work directly with the carrier to get you fair and fast resolution.

To get comprehensive coverage specific to your business risks and responsive claims handling support, check out NIP Group’s commercial insurance programs by visiting http://www.nipgroup.com/programs/.

Related Articles:

Will Your Insurance Carrier Be Able to Pay Your Claim?  Here’s One Way to Tell




5 Ways to Save Money on Your Business Insurance Bill

Save Money on Business Insurance

A few simple and quick actions could put more money into your business.  The components that influence the cost of your insurance bill, including your business risks and coverage selection, can be controlled to lower your premium without compromising the quality of your coverage.  With a lower premium to pay each year, there’s more money for you to continue growing your business.

Here are five simple ways to save money on your insurance bill without sacrificing coverage:

1. Implement Safety and Loss Reduction Practices

Control workplace hazards and maintain the working condition of your commercial equipment and vehicles to keep your insurance premium low (and avoid injuries).  With a lower risk of a claim, the lower your premium will likely be (see item #3).

2. Bundle Your Policies with One Carrier

Bundling multiple lines of insurance coverage through one carrier usually comes at a lower cost than purchasing each policy individually through various carriers.  A Business Owners Policy (BOP), for example, can benefit small and medium-sized businesses because it packages major liability and property risks into one insurance plan for a lower premium.

3. Ask About a Claims-Free Discount  

Your carrier may reward you with a discount on your insurance plan if your business hasn’t had a claim in years.  To get this cost benefit, avoid filing small claims that can be paid out of pocket.

4. Increase Your Deductible

A higher deductible can lower the premium you pay annually.  It’s always good to have money set aside, however, in case an unexpected claim does occur.

5. Talk to Your Insurance Broker 

Choose a knowledgeable agent that can help you get the best coverage for you and your business.  Your broker can answer questions about different coverage options and available discounts.

Following these five tips can help you save money to continue growing your business.  At NIP Group, we get businesses custom-tailored insurance coverage at a competitive premium rate to better fit your operational and financial needs.  Visit nipgroup.com/programs or contact your broker to find out how you can save money without compromising the quality of your insurance coverage through NIP Group.




April is Safe Digging Month – Tips to Help Your Contractors Control Exposures and Claim Costs

iStock_000013069217_MediumAn underground utility line is damaged every six minutes because someone decided to dig before calling 811. All states have laws that require utilities be pre-located by an appropriate locator service, which can be reached by calling 811 – the national “Call Before You Dig” phone number.
The following steps can help contractors control exposures, avoid losses, or contain losses that do occur:

Take daily photos of the work site

Check utility marks to help ensure all known utilities have been located

In the event a strike does occur, once site safety is established, gather detailed documentation of where the marks were in relation to the excavation; documentation can include photos, diagrams and witness statements

Not collecting these facts immediately could seriously damage your contractor’s defense. The average utility damage claim is approximately $25,000, and as such, implementing an effective incident investigation plan containing the elements above can help you defend your contractor.

TMPAA Announces 2013 "Program Marketing Campaign" Award Winners

Three Member Agencies Score Highest in Competition Co-Sponsored by the IMCA

Wilmington, DE — The Target Markets Program Administrators Association (TMPAA) announced at their Mid Year Meeting in Baltimore that 20 entries were received for the third annual marketing campaign competition. TMPAA’s co-sponsor, the Insurance Marketing & Communications Association (IMCA) has sponsored its own marketing and communications “Showcase Awards” for 55 years. IMCA provided a panel of independent judges that reviewed all TMPAA member entries for both creative design and marketplace impact.

The winning member agencies were Venture Insurance Programs from West Chester, PA, K&B Underwriters from Reston, VA and MiniCo Insurance Agency from Phoenix, AZ. Venture’s entry was for its “Suite Life” campaign in support of its hospitality program. K&B Underwriters’ entry featured its multi-media campaign in support of its “DigniCARE” senior living facilities program. And MiniCo’s entry was the launch of its new “Family of Products” campaign featuring a branded icon supporting four of its specialty insurance programs. All three Award of Excellence winners supported their entries with impressive marketplace metrics that achieved desired upfront marketing objectives.

David Springer, TMPAA President, presented the winning award plaques at the recent Mid Year Meeting. The semi-annual association meeting attracted 600 agency, carrier and vendor members. Springer commented, “The TMPAA was thrilled to continue the creative competition in partnership with IMCA. We hope to have even more entries in 2014.”

Additionally, Springer announced that two other member agencies were named runners up in this year’s competition – GMI Insurance from Valley Forge, PA and Willis Programs of Portsmouth, NH.

The Association’s recent Mid Year Meeting was held in Baltimore, MD, May 6-9. Complete details of this event are now on the TMPAA website. The 13th Annual TMPAA Summit is scheduled for October 21-23 in Scottsdale, AZ.

Program Administrators / MGA’s interested in learning more about the TMPAA and the Program Marketing Awards can visit the Association website at www.targetmarkets.com, or contact Ray Scotto, Executive Director, at (877) 347-5700 or ray.scotto@targetmkts.com.

Excavation: Uninsured Subcontractors

ExcavationThere are many risks that are faced in the site improvement and excavation line of business. Many of them are unable to be completely mitigated due to factors that are just out of a manager’s control.

However, there is one risk that excavation contractors have complete control over, and that risk is hiring an uninsured subcontractor.

In short, uninsured contractors are a huge red flag and should never ever be considered when looking to contract a third party for work. When an excavation contractor hires a subcontractor to do work for them, they really must carry at least general liability insurance.

The reason why the team at SitePro, an insurance program designed specifically for the needs of site improvement and excavation contractors, is so adamant about our insureds not hiring a subcontractor who has no general liability, is because after policy expiration it is common practice that an audit is performed on the annual policy term. If the insured cannot provide a certificate of insurance for the subcontractor, the client’s general liability will pick up the exposure. This means the payroll will be added to the audit and they will end up paying the general liability premium for the contractor who chose not to buy the insurance.

Contractors NEED to be aware they could be responsible for the payroll associated with an uninsured subcontractor’s work, and their estimated annual premium could rise. Make certain that a client’s subcontractors have their own general liability insurance, and only work with those who have it. It will protect their interests and their business.

For more information excavation and land improvement insurance and risk management, visit SitePro.

Mitigating Excavation Site Risks

ExcavationLand excavation is one of the most dangerous stages of any construction project. The use of large machinery and the extra men on the ground it takes to coordinate the work adds up to a lot of potential risk whether it is caused by an uncontrollable accident or human error.

Outside the risk of construction workers being injured is any potential property damage incurred as not all projects are done in wide open spaces. With the use of such large earth moving machines, it’s not all too uncommon for nearby property to sustain accidental damage in the process of the excavation.

The team at SitePro, one of the most comprehensive insurance programs available for contractors focused on site preparation and land improvement, has a vast array of experience in risk management of excavation ventures. We know that taking certain steps in safety and planning can help mitigate the dangers of working on an excavation site.

Some of these steps include:

Sounds an obvious one but people should be kept away from areas where excavations are in operation. This can be done by using barriers. A pedestrian exclusion zone should be created with barriers and tape to make sure pedestrians are kept away.

When carrying out any excavation work the excavator needs to have the best view around them and the driver needs to have as much clear vision as possible when operating the excavator.

Clearance Area
When slewing in a confined area a minimum tail swing should be used and is preferred. Clearance needs to be over 0.5m between any parts of the machine.

This is an important job which can minimize risk. The signaler should be in a safe place to direct the excavator operations and be aware and notify pedestrians in time for them to vacate the area.

Attachments and Bucket Attachments
These need to be secured and checked up on a couple times per day as a number of deaths have occurred when the bucket has fallen from the machine.


Keeping these steps and processes in mind on an excavation site is an effective way to mitigate the risks involved in the work.

In the occurrence of any accident on an excavation site, it’s always helpful for an excavation business owner to be covered by a team who knows the business inside and out.

For more information on excavation insurance, visit SitePro.

Admitted vs. Non-Admitted Carriers

There are both advantages and disadvantages to insuring your clients through non-admitted companies. The greatest advantage is undoubtedly the price, as insurers are allowed more flexibility in setting rates and premiums for non-admitted policies.

That being said, there are major disadvantages to using non-admitted companies that far outweigh the lower premiums:

Classification Limitation Endorsement
This endorsement is designed to only cover the insured for operations specifically described in the description of hazards section of the General Liability policy. Therefore, under this endorsement, the insurer limits its liability coverage to the classifications noted in the policy. The insurer may agree to pay all sums that the insured is legally obligated to pay as damages, but coverage applies only to those occurrences having to do with the classifications named in the policy. This being the case, the designated classification must match the nature of the activity, or the insurer is likely to deny both defense and coverage.

General Liability Is Usually 100% Minimum Earned
In order to be more competitive, markets have occasionally reduced it to 90% or 80%. In other words, the policy may generate additional premium on audit because of an increase in payroll due to more work than projected. However, it will not generate a return premium if the actual payroll is less than what was estimated. This is not a very uncommon turn of events in today’s economic climate.

While you may find your client a cheaper rate with a non-admitted carrier, the coverage can be spotty in certain situations that are quite common. Coverage needs to be closely examined to ensure that there are no gaps that could become problematic in the long run.

For more information, visit NIP Programs.

Safety Issues During Excavation

ExcavationAs we’ve said before: Excavation is one of the most, if not the most dangerous types of work during a construction project. Many accidents and fatalities can be avoided if all of the workers in a trench or dig site are able to spot, identify, and alert other workers of work site safety issues.

First and foremost, plans and strategies need to be laid out before anyone even enters the dig site. Sending in workers who are unclear of the project is a recipe for disaster. They also need to be warned of the hazards they will be facing during the project so they may take the correct precautions to prevent an accident from occurring. Doing so will keep everyone in the site on the same page which effectively lowers the risk of injuries.

Proper precautions for entering deeper dig sites must be taken as well:

When workers are required to enter an excavated area that is more than 4 feet deep, confined space safety rules must be followed. These rules require preliminary monitoring in the work area if breathable air contamination or a hazardous atmosphere is suspected.

The deeper the excavation becomes, the more risks are going to be faced by the workers. Some of them may not be as obvious as cave-ins. Air contamination is very dangerous because there are times when air contaminants have no odor to them. Workers could be working in and inhaling toxic air and not even know it. It’s imperative that the air quality be tested often to avoid illness.

Other safety issues that need to be monitored by all the staff on site include:

  • Equipment should be operated only by trained workers.
  • No work should be performed on the faces of sloped or benched excavations above workers without protecting workers at the lower levels.
  • Drainage must be provided whenever work is performed in excavations where water is accumulating or can accumulate.
  • Stairways, ladders, and/or ramps must be provided in all trenches that are 4 feet deep or deeper. Means of access/egress must be positioned so they are no more than 25 feet from any worker inside the work area. Earthen ramps are acceptable for egress only if a worker can use them while walking in an upright position.
  • Guardrails must be provided on walkways or bridges that cross excavations that are more than 6 feet deep.
  • Reflector or warning vests must be worn by all workers when vehicular traffic is present or in close proximity to the excavation site. It also may be necessary to provide traffic control in busy work areas.

Monitoring these safety issues and taking action to prevent them from becoming a problem is an effective practice in mitigating risk on excavation sites and keeping workers safe and healthy. However, it is in the nature of accidents to happen even when all precautions have been taken. Should the worst happen, it is helpful to have an insurance program built for the specific needs of site improvement contractors.

For more information, visit SitePro.