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4 Basic Insurance Policies for Greenhouses and Nursery Garden Centers

Basic Insurance Policies for Greenhouses and Nursery Garden Centers

Having the right insurance for your business plants the seed for a stronger financial future.  When a costly claim or lawsuit is made against your business, even basic coverage can help dig you out of a financial hole.  This liability and workers’ comp insurance covers the costs when certain unexpected situations happen.

Below we provide an overview of four basic insurance policies – general liability, property, commercial vehicle, and workers’ comp – that can help safeguard your horticulture or plant grower business.

General Liability Insurance

If a third party claims your employee or work environment caused them injury or physical damage to their property, you might be held liable for paying the bill(s).  Even if not at fault, these claims are common and can be costly.  For example, a customer breaks their arm from slipping and falling on wet leaves in the aisle of your nursery garden center.

To protect your business against the high costs of property damage, bodily injury, and personal or advertising injury claims, general liability insurance is necessary.  This popular policy covers the costs of related legal fees, third party medical expenses, and much more.

Property Insurance

Structures, stock, equipment, and other business property can be expensive to repair or replace.  This property loss often results from fire, extreme weather, and theft.  During winter, for example, a greenhouse roof collapsing from the weight of snow and ice damages your stock, supplies, and everything else it crashes on top of, in addition to interrupting your business operations.

In case of an unfortunate incident,  property insurance is designed to help you get back to business after a loss of your stock, structures, equipment, or commercial and  business personal property.

Commercial Vehicle Insurance

If an employee causes an accident when delivering plants, going on a sales call, or driving a company vehicle for any business related purpose, you could be responsible for paying the damages.  These costs significantly increase when a third party is injured as a result of the accident,.

For greenhouse and nursery garden centers with traveling employees, a commercial vehicle insurance policy is essential.  This policy covers the expense of physical damage repairs to a covered auto, as well as the potential defense and payment of bodily injury claims to a third party.

Workers’ Compensation

Using sharp gardening tools, lifting heavy equipment, spraying chemicals on plants, and other daily tasks could result in injury or illness for an employee.  Even with safety procedures in place, accidents can still happen.  For example, an employee is hurt after tripping on a hose being used by another employee to water plants. When  employees are  hurt on the job, this policy covers the resulting medical costs and lost income during recovery, as well as potential litigation expenses.  Workers’ compensation is a legal requirement in most states, and a necessary policy when running a business with paid employees.

These four fundamental insurance policies better protect horticulture and plant grower businesses.  To fill any gaps where you would not be financially protected, additional coverage can be added to each policy.

Find insurance coverage for your business.  NIP Group’s GrowPro insurance program includes general liability, property, commercial vehicle, workers’ comp, and other important coverages that can be custom-tailored to your operational and financial needs. For information on insurance coverage specific to your needs, visit nipgroup.com/programs/growpro or contact your broker.

Please note: All coverages are subject to conditions, coverage limits, limits of liability, limitations, and exclusions as contained in the policy.

How to Prevent a Catastrophic Fire in Your Greenhouse Facility

 

Prevent a Fire in Your Greenhouse FacilityAccording to NFPA, there was $11.5 billion in property damage from fires in the United States in 2013. In a greenhouse environment, quickly spreading fires will easily destroy crops, damage facilities, and disrupt business operations that results in lost income. These blazing flames are a result of high temperature, combustible materials, and oxygen – all elements commonly found within a greenhouse.

Flammable materials exposed to high temperature sources plant the seed for a fire disaster.  Add oxygen to the mix and your whole greenhouse operations could get destroyed.   Sources of these high temperatures include poor electrical wiring, overloaded circuits, soldering or welding work, heating systems and other equipment, and discarded cigarettes. When a flame or high heat comes into contact with plastic, greenhouse covers, shade cloths, chemicals, and other flammable items, a fire can break out. Increasing the flow of oxygen, such as through a fan, only intensifies and spreads the flames.

To prevent these elements from coming into contact with one another and starting a fire, it’s important to minimize and control fire hazards within your facility.  Below are some helpful tips to protect your greenhouse, crops, and employees.

Build Your Greenhouse to Resist Fires

The first step to preventing a fire is to safeguard your greenhouse by complying with building codes and National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements. This ensures your facility is constructed to avoid fires, including installed sprinklers, proper electrical wiring and grounding, and location distance from other buildings.

The layout and design of your greenhouse also contributes to fire prevention.  Layout and design tips include but are not limited to:

  • Building a separate ventilated area, preferably outside of your facility, to store flammable liquids
  • Placing heating systems, electrical equipment, and other combustion-type equipment a safe distance away from flammable materials
  • Using non-combustible building materials for walkways and other appropriate areas

Regularly Inspect and Control Fire Hazards

Even with a well-designed and up to code greenhouse facility, safety procedures and routine inspections are required to prevent or control a fire.  These include but are not limited to:

  • Training employees in recognizing fire hazards, handling chemicals, using fire extinguishers, steps to take in case of fire, and other safety procedures
  • Storing flammable chemicals, liquids, and oily rags in proper containers
  • Making sure exit ways, aisles, and fire extinguishers are free from obstruction at all times
  • Checking the physical and working condition of equipment, including dust and leaks
  • Making sure equipment motors and flammable material storage areas are well ventilated
  • Testing the performance of fire and smoke alarms regularly

In addition, refer to OSHA standards for workplace fire safety.

Have a Plan If a Fire Does Break Out

Response by your employees can keep a fire from spreading and causing significant damage.  Create an emergency response plan with steps to take if a fire does break out, including how and when to use a fire extinguisher, emergency contact numbers to call, and where to exit the facility.

If the fire causes property damages or injuries, the right insurance coverage will protect your greenhouse business from significant financial loss.  To get the best coverage for your operational and financial needs, it’s important to know the risks your business faces and what is covered under each type of insurance policy.

For comprehensive insurance that covers losses due to fires, NIP Group offers GrowPro insurance program specifically for greenhouse and horticulture businesses.   Contact your insurance broker or visit www.nipgroup.com/programs/growpro for more information.

Resources

https://www.ngma.com/standardpdf/FireSafety2010.pdf

http://www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fires-in-the-us

https://blog.safetysmart.com/2014/01/12-fire-prevention-tips-workers/

 

 

 

Keeping Your Greenhouse Operational While the Snow Melts

Winter greenhouseThe weight of snow can change based on whether the snow is wet or dry, as wet snow can be up to four times heavier than dry snow.  Dry snow can mostly be found in the middle of the country, while wet snows are more typically found on coastlines or by large bodies of water. When melted, three inches of wet snow or twelve inches of dry snow is equivalent to one inch of water. How can this water weight affect your greenhouse? In order to lighten the load of the snow, the best method is to melt it before it starts to pile up. Here’s a list of some snow melting tips to help you as this winter comes to a close.

  • Energy Blanket: Before the storm starts, lay out the energy blanket and turn the heat on BEFORE the snow starts to fall. This will warm up the glazing so the snow will melt on contact. Even if the snow does start to pile up, it will act as a good insulator, which will reduce heat loss.
  • Reducing Air Pressure: Double layered greenhouses are less effective at melting snow, as the second layer slows the heat transfer. By reducing the air pressure, you can deflate the greenhouse to a single layer.
  • Snow Rake: If energy blankets are not available, you can manually remove snow from the greenhouse with a snow rake. Be careful not to build the snow up too high around the sides, as it may crush the walls in.
  • Heating Cables/Water Piping: The effects of these methods are limited due to the small concentrated area of the tools and their small heat output. However, these methods can help if used with other tools.

As always, you should be sure to develop a complete plan before a storm starts. Be sure to check up on snow accumulation throughout the storm’s duration. Also, check all heating equipment before the storm, to make sure it is operational.

Severe Weather Tips for Greenhouse Growing Businesses

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Now that the weather is finally starting to warm up, we can begin to enjoy all of the wonderful things summer has to bring. However, summer comes with some pretty unpredictable storms and weather patterns. While we can’t always predict when, where, or how hard these natural disasters will hit, there are a number of precautions that can be taken to ensure your business stays safe. By following these tips, one can help mitigate the risk associated with greenhouse structure and business.

Prepare: Always have an emergency procedure in place for the protection and safety of all employees and property. Instructions, safety guidelines, and the chain of command must be clear. All drills should be reviewed and practiced every quarter.

Tornadoes and Heavy Rain: If you are located in a heavy tornado area, be sure to consult with a structural engineer before buying new structures. While your building codes may fit your state’s standards, it may not be offering you the most protection. Rain storms also pose as a serious threat to greenhouses. High winds and flash floods can cause a great deal of damage.

Hail: Polyethylene film roofs that are hit by hail may break due to impact, which can cause a number of problems. Broken glass may fall and cause injury, so it is vital to remove the glass as soon as possible, as well as repairing any holes in the roof’s structure.

Greenhouses are especially susceptible to damage, as they are large structures covered in glass. While these is nothing we can do to control the weather, knowing how to react is one of the most effective tools to helping prevent or minimalize damages. Make sure you’ve done everything to protect your business by visiting GrowPro.

Top 10 Snow Related Causes of Greenhouse Failure

snowblowerJohn Bartok Jr., an agricultural engineer and University of Connecticut Professor Emeritus, says snow varies considerably in consistency and weight. It can be light and fluffy with a water equivalent of 12 inches equal to 1 inch of rain. Snow can also be wet and heavy with 3 to 4 inches equal to 1 inch of rain.

Snow having a 1-inch rainwater equivalent loads a structure with 5.2 pounds per square foot. This amounts to about 6.5 tons on a 25- by 96-foot greenhouse.

Bartok says there are several reasons for structure failures during snow storms.

1. Drifting Snow: In nor’easter storms, adjacent greenhouses or bays of gutter-connected houses that have a north-south ridge orientation tend to collect more snow on the leeward side. Snow that is lifted over the ridge of the first house can be dumped on the windward side of the second house. This creates an off-center load on the roof.

2. Proximity Of Adjacent Greenhouses: Building greenhouses too close together is a common cause of failure. This is especially the case with overwintering structures that are only 4 to 6 feet apart. When snow slides off the greenhouse roof, it fills the space and crushes the house’s sidewall frame. Usually there is inadequate space to get in with a bucket loader to remove it. To save the structure, some growers cut the plastic covering to allow the snow to flow into the greenhouse and relieve the pressure. Other growers install two-by-fours to brace the side frame.

3. Greenhouse Frame Shape: The gothic-shaped greenhouse was developed to eliminate the flat spots that can collect snow on the top of hoop-shaped structures. Since 1994, when the nursery industry changed from the hoop design to a gothic design for overwintering structures, there have been fewer structure failures.

4. Poor Frame Connectors: Check and tighten all bolts and tek screws before the winter season. These fasteners tend to loosen over time. Brace bands and u-clamps can slip if they are not held in place with tek screws. The screws should be at the side of frame members, not at the bottom. Several greenhouses have failed at the point where tek screws were placed at the bottom of hoop tubing. This created weak spots.

5. Greenhouse Frame Racking: Many manufacturers do not include bracing with their greenhouse kits. All greenhouses should have diagonal braces from near the peak at the endwall to the baseboard about 16 to 20 feet from the endwall on all four corners. This provides stability and keeps the frames vertical. Frames lose considerable strength when they are not vertical. Install tubing or a 1- by 4-inch board and secure with a U-bolt at each hoop.

6. Poor Welds: Welds that are not continuous or that have burned through the metal are weak spots. Areas that should be checked include truss braces, welds between sections of gutters and tubing sections that are welded together without an insert. Although expensive, professional inspection and x-ray testing may be worth the added expense.

7. Inadequate Air Inflation: Heavy wind can create rippling of plastic coverings causing failure at the structure attachments. This can be prevented by increasing the polyethylene film’s inflation slightly by opening the blower’s intake valve. Make sure any holes or rips are taped. Check to see that the inflation fan intake cannot be blocked by snow.

8. No Heat Or Inadequate Heat: Most greenhouses that fail don’t have heat or were heated to 40ºF or less. When heavy snow is predicted, the greenhouse heating system should be turned on and the thermostat set at 70ºF or higher. Energy screens should be left open. The few extra gallons of oil or therms of natural gas burned are less expensive than replacing a collapsed greenhouse.

9. Open Vents, Doors Or Louvers: The effective force of the wind is doubled when it is allowed inside a greenhouse. Latch doors and tape vents and shutters so that they cannot open.

10. Plugged Gutters And Downspouts: Once snow has accumulated, it is important to have provisions for its removal. Removing snow from the roof lets some light in, allowing warming of the inside. This causes some melting, which helps to reduce the snow load. Once the snow is melted, it is important to keep the gutters and downspouts free of ice. Ice socks filled with calcium chloride placed in gutters and downspouts will melt the ice. If available, magnesium chloride or sodium acetate is more environmentally friendly and reduces corrosion.

Shoveling is not always the answer. It can be very expensive to remove the snow. You also need space to dispose of it. If the snow is light, there is not much danger of collapse. If the snow is heavy, some growers have found that as it settles, melts and refreezes, it forms a cocoon next to the plastic covering and doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the greenhouse. Removing it may cause more damage.

Structural Considerations for Greenhouses to Prevent Snow Damage

GreenhouseImage Credit:
extension.org

A significant problem for nurseries during the winter season is the damaged caused to greenhouses and equipment during snow storms. As snow builds up on a greenhouse, it begins to put tremendous pressure and weight on the structure. Eventually, if the structure is not set up properly, this weight will take its toll and crush the greenhouse leaving the business owner to deal with the costly task of fixing the damage to equipment, the structure, and the plants inside the structure

Take the following real life case from 2009 as an example of the high costs snow damage can cause:

Oregon nurseries say winter storms have done a number on some greenhouses, and the damage to plants wont be known fully until spring.

The Oregon Association of Nurseries says that at a seedling operation in Molalla, more than a foot of snow and ice crushed 72 of 84 greenhouses. Another operator estimated structure and equipment loss at more than $1 million.

Claims Journal

Preventive measures can be taken when designing a greenhouse to help manage this risk. When building a greenhouse, be sure that foundation posts are large enough to support the weight of the building and that the greenhouse has diagonal bracing. All post connections should have the proper bolts and screws reinforcing them. When building individual greenhouses next to each other, be sure toleave around one foot of space between individual greenhouses. This will help prevent the sidewalls from collapsing in as snow accumulates.

After the greenhouse is properly built, there are still preventive measures to put into action. Any cracked or broken glass that is noticed should be replaced immediately. The heating system should be turned on and should maintain 60 degrees Fahrenheit and energy screens should be retracted in order to melt the snow away. It is also critical to have a standby generator available in case of a power outage occurring during the snow storm.

Designing a greenhouse properly and taking the correct steps prevent snow damage will reduce business risk for the business owner and save them from some financial trouble.

For more information on greenhouse growers insurance and risk management, visit GrowPro..

Breakdown of the Horticulture Industry

Horticulture IndustryWe published a post back in August that focused on the Segments of the Horticulture Industry. In this iteration of the breakdown of the horticulture industry, we’d like to take the focus a bit further and give a more in depth look of what kinds of activities theses segments are involved in.

There are four segments of the horticulture industry: Nurseries, Greenhouses, Independent Garden Centers, and Hybrids of the previous three. Though most may view growers as one big industry, there are fundamental differences in the activities each of the different businesses.

Wholesale Greenhouse Growers
Wholesale greenhouse growers grow ornamental flowers, plants, shrubs and certain kinds of trees, in controlled environments. Typically, a grower will have property values that are much higher than those of a nursery grower. They also have specialized structures and other equipment, including the greenhouse itself, as well as other necessary equipment, such as water, boilers, lighting, temperature control, alarms, and security.

Larger growers also supply plants to big box stores or other venues, on a consignment basis. Of course, this creates significant exposure for their stock at these non-covered locations, as well as potential loss of income, due to interruptions in business at the non-covered location.

Wholesale Nursery Growers
Wholesale Nursery Growers generally grow plants and trees in open fields instead of under a greenhouse structure. Most of these operations are located on the west coast and southern US, where the climate tends to stay warmer year-round.

Retail Garden Centers
Retail Garden Centers are the major customer of the Greenhouse Grower and the Wholesale Nursery Grower. They typically sell related products, including seed, fertilizer, and small garden tools, in addition to flowers, plants and trees and often have greenhouse structures to house the plants that are out for sale. Also, they may have a Landscaping division, which creates a unique and different exposure, from that of the typical greenhouse or nursery operation.

Hybrid Operations
Hybrid operations are a business that are an overlap of any of the three, and in turn, have much higher exposures due to the multiple operations.

Understanding the activities of each of the segments of the horticulture industry assists greatly in being able to write coverage that will best keep the business safe. Building an insurance program from the ground up with the specific needs of not only the industry as a whole, but the segments that make it up, is how to best avoid gaps in coverage that leave an insured vulnerable.

For more information, visit GrowPro.

Risks Associated With Various Greenhouse Structures

Greenhouse StructureGreenhouse structures used by horticulturists tend to be one of the more prominent risks involved in the line of business and also one of the hardest exposures to assess risk on. One of the main reasons risk evaluation for greenhouses is typically a challenging aspect is because of the variety of greenhouse structure types used in the industry. The material, cost, and structural integrity of different types of greenhouses all contribute to the amount of exposure.

There are four types of greenhouse structures used in this class of business: Tempered Glass, Barrel-Vaulted Double Poly, Quonset-Style, and the Gutter Connected Gable with Polycarbonate Roof.

Tempered Glass

Tempered Glass greenhouses are one of the most traditional styles. They are large structures that are becoming more and more uncommon in the industry. However, large national greenhouse growers still tend to use them. Their prices can vary greatly but typically are in the range of $25 – $50 per square foot. With various upgrades to the structure, the price can jump to $60 – $65 per square foot. Proper evaluation and recognition of these “bells and whistles” is essential when determining exposure.

Barrel-Vaulted Double Poly

The barrel-vaulted double poly is a more commonly found greenhouse that is usually utilized by wholesale growers. The “double poly” refers to the structure’s use of a thicker plastic for the roofing. The price of this style ranges from $5 – $10 per square foot; hence the wider range of use.

Quonset-Style

The Quonset-Style greenhouses are also very common among wholesale greenhouse growers. They are the cheapest of the four styles coming in at $3 – $5 per square foot. However, they are the most prone to getting destroyed in rough weather due to the thin roofing. This kind of exposure needs to be thought through thoroughly, because though it may be the cheapest to replace, it is also the most likely to sustain heavy damage.

Gutter Connected Gable with Polycarbonate Roof

This style of greenhouse is uncommon among the industry, but just like the tempered glass, it is used by larger national growers. The gutter connected gable is top notch right beneath the tempered glass.  They are fully enclosed which is good during a winter hail storm or tornadoes because usually when rough weather comes through, if wind gets into a greenhouse it can cause it to implode and collapse from the inside. The price per square foot on this style is about the same as tempered glass, around $25 – $50 per square foot.

It is essential when evaluating the exposure on a greenhouse grower’s business to know the kind of structures being used. They play a key role in determining the risk associated with a client and not accurately determining the risk could end badly for either side. It is important not only to note the style of greenhouse being used, but any upgrades installed and the type of roofing being used in order to get an accurate evaluation of any greenhouse exposure.

For more information, visit GrowPro.

The Segments of the Horticulture Industry

HorticultureThe horticulture industry has varying segments, each of which has their own unique risks. Breaking down and identifying the industry makes the process of coverage and writing insurance policies a lot more efficient and effective.

The team at GrowPro, an insurance program designed for the green industry and their specific needs, has identified the unique segments of the industry in order to ease the process of writing effective coverage.

The industry breaks out into four segments, which include:

Nurseries
These are places where plants are propagated and grown to a usable size. They’re usually independent commercial operations, with or without greenhouses; and they typically have a mix of retail and wholesale customers.

Greenhouses
These focus on large-scale production of floricultural products. They are typically wholesale operations, and have unique exposures, including the actual greenhouse and related equipment. They are often not adequately addressed through standard agricultural insurance programs.

Independent Garden Centers
Independent Garden Centers can be anything from a small, “mom and pop” operation to larger regional centers. Their primary focus is Retail.

Hybrids
Hybrids are operations that overlap, combining characteristics of more than one type of operation. These represent a unique risk, as multiple activities mean more exposure. The best example of a hybrid would be a nursery that also offers landscaping services.

These four segments represent the breakdown of the horticulture industry. They each have unique risks so it is important not to just throw a blanket small business insurance policy over them as coverage gaps are very likely to happen. Programs for the horticulture industry need to be designed around the unique risks that each segment runs into during daily operations.

For more information, visit GrowPro.