Specialized Business Insurance & Risk Management Blog

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.








How to Reduce Costly Risks in a Cleaning or Maintenance Service Business

Reduce Costly Risks in a Cleaning or Maintenance Service BusinessThe key to keeping your business costs low is preventing injuries and damages before they happen.  Slips and falls, exposure to cleaning chemicals, damage to a client’s property, and equipment hazards are common risks faced by cleaning and maintenance service employees that could leave a mark on your balance sheet and reputation.  To avoid a financial mess from a claim or lawsuit, a risk management plan should be defined and followed.

Here are some risk management tips that reduce costly risks for your business:

Make Safety Everybody’s Job

Train each employee in safety procedures that prevent damages to a client’s property, equipment breakdowns, and injuries or health risks.  With everyone involved in creating a safe environment, the risk of a costly claim is significantly reduced.  Safety tips include (but are not limited to):

  • Don’t use cell phones while driving from one site to another
  • Inspect and control cleaning site hazards before starting the job
  • Secure fragile items before cleaning an area
  • Wear protective gear that shields from chemicals
  • Warn clients of wet floors and hazard areas
  • Use proper cleaning procedures and maintain working condition of equipment
  • Lock up the building and equipment at the completion of each workday

Keep a Record of Inventory and Services Performed

Write up a contract for your client to sign before starting a new job that clearly defines services to be performed, detailed list of tasks to be completed in each area and facility, schedule, rates, and other important conditions.  Throughout each workday, record which equipment is used, where equipment and the client’s property is stored, and tasks or services that were completed.  Documentation not only helps employees stick to an agenda for a higher job performance, but it provides evidence to better defend your business if there’s ever an unexpected lawsuit. In addition, it helps to improve customer satisfaction.

Have a Backup Plan with Insurance

Insurance coverage is there to back you up financially when an unexpected claim happens.  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.  Even the most basic insurance can help you avoid a substantial loss, depending on your risks.

Following a simple risk management plan that includes these components will help your cleaning or maintenance service business avoid significant financial loss and maintain customer satisfaction.  With this, you can keep your operations running as smooth as possible and continue growing your business.

To protect your cleaning or maintenance service business, NIP Group offers MaintenancePro insurance program.  Contact your insurance broker or visit www.nipgroup.com/programs/maintenancepro for more information.




Structural Considerations for Greenhouses to Prevent Snow Damage

GreenhouseImage Credit:

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..

Plumbing Risks: Gas Explosions

Gas ExplosionImage Credit:

Common practice used by plumbers when purging gas lines has always been to open the gas valve and, once they smell the familiar scent of gas, shut the valve off. But what if the gas has lost its odor? Then simply relying on the ability to recognize the smell of gas proves to be a dangerous and risky practice.

In 1937, after a deadly explosion at a Texas school, a law was passed to add a chemical to natural gas that would give it that rotten egg smell that has become the tell tale sign that there is gas present in the air. What is not common knowledge is that this odor can fade and even disappear because the steel and plastic piping can absorb the odor. This is known as “natural gas odor fade”. Without the ability to smell the gas, a plumber may purge a gas line before connecting a fixture allowing odorless gas to fill up an enclosed space and mix with the air. This mixture has the potential to cause a serious explosion.
To help mitigate the risk of a gas explosion occurring, remember:

  • NEVER rely on your sense of smell alone to detect the presence of natural gas.
  • ALWAYS use gas detection equipment during purging or when working on or around gas piping systems, i.e., combustible gas detector.
  • Be aware of other signs of a gas leak besides the smell: a hissing, whistling or roaring sound near a gas appliance or pipeline; a damaged connection to a gas appliance.
  • Make sure to purge gas lines in a well ventilated area, never into an enclosed space.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Outside of the obvious risk of injury to the plumber that a gas explosion would cause, explosions can cause serious injury to the customer and serious structural damage to the building or house, leaving a business owner opened to some severe claims being filed against them. Following the above guidelines and understanding that using only the sense of smell to detect gas is a dangerous practice, will reduce the chance of a gas explosion occurring which will result in less business risk for the business owner.

For more information on plumbing insurance and risk management, please visit PlumbingPro.

Reducing Veterinarian Risk: Handling, Lifting, and Restraining Dogs

A large part of the day-to-day business of a veterinary hospital is the physical handling of dogs. These animals may be calm and docile, or they may be angry and irritated. In either case, the level of risk is high and the opportunity for an accident that leaves the veterinarian opened to litigation is always present. This is why it is so important to train staff on the proper way to handle animals that are brought into the hospital. The entire humane handling process requires an appraisal of each animal’s behavior, an adequate number of properly trained staff, an appropriate choice of location for the procedures, and proper equipment that is readily available

Always observe the animal behavior before approaching and get their attention by calling the pet by name and encouraging him to come to you. If the animal does not come to you, slowly approach him from the front. Approaching the animal from behind can cause the animal to be surprised and raise the chances of an accident occurring. If the owner is holding the pet, let them place the animal down on the table, instead of taking the pet from the owner’s arms. Otherwise, the animal may become protective of the owner when you reach out to them.

To lift a dog from the floor to the examination table, put one arm in front of the animal’s chest and the other behind the rear legs or under the stomach and lift in a scooping motion. A larger dog may require 2 people to lift with one person lifting behind the front legs and the other under the stomach.

When it is determined that restraint is necessary, always remember that less is more. Excessive restraint may cause the animal to become irritated, aggressive, and/or uncooperative. The least amount of restraint needed to allow the Vet to do their job should be applied. Talk to the dog in a soft, soothing tone. The owner can be within sight of the animal and talk to it try to calm it down but should NEVER be the one to restrain the animal. This would leave the business opened to serious lawsuits if an accident were to happen. If the animal attempts to bite or has a history of biting, than the use of a muzzle is necessary.


Proper handling, lifting and restraint of dogs during a physical examination will lead to happier customers and a lower chance of a claim being filed against a Vet. But even with a well trained staff and a properly equipped facility at a veterinarian’s disposal, claims can still be filed against a business owner. In this event, veterinarians deserve to have a defense with their needs in mind through a coverage program like PetPro.

For more information about pet care insurance and risk management, visit PetPro.

Risk Management for Landscapers: Equipment Transportation

Most landscapers are aware of the risks involved with landscaping work while on the job site. Employee injury and property damage tend to be the most common risks involved in the landscaping line of business. While landscapers recognized these as potential liabilities inherent with this type of work, they often ignore a major part of the process that can cause some serious business risks: traveling to and from the worksite. Traveling with all the necessary, often heavy, equipment needed to perform a job can lead to accidents leaving the business owner opened to claims being filed against them.

Take this real world example:

A Philadelphia man is suing a Maryland business over claims he sustained head injuries and completely lost his sense of smell following a chain reaction accident triggered by items that fell off of the back of a landscaping truck.

The lawsuit says that the defendant failed to adequately secure its load of wheelbarrows and other landscaping tools, causing the items to be ejected from the bed of the truck and land on the highway, which triggered the multi-vehicle accident.

The Pennsylvania Record

Accidents like this can be avoided if the time is taken to make sure that all equipment is properly and safely loaded into the truck. To help mitigate the risk, make sure to do the following:

  • Be sure to properly balance the cargo load in the trailer. Unbalanced cargo can cause the trailer to sway.
  • NEVER overload the trailer or pick-up bed.
  • For large equipment, use chains or straps with ratchet load binders to secure.
  • Double check that all straps and chains are fastened properly before driving.
  • When driving, make sure stop gradually to prevent cargo from shifting and avoid exceeding the speed limit.

The points above may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many landscapers forget these simple steps when they are in a rush or just following their daily routine on auto-pilot. It is important for landscapers to find a way to remind themselves and their employees to properly load and secure their vehicle; as it goes a long way in preventing accidents.

For more information on landscaping insurance and risk management, visit LandProTreePro.

Snowblower Safety Tips

Brought to you by LandProTreePro, commercial insurance for landscapers, arborists, and tree services.

The winter months have arrived and – especially in some parts of the country – plenty of snow has arrived with them. This means that it’s time to bring out those snowblowers and start the snow removal process. While the snowblower is an extremely helpful tool, it also poses some serious safety hazards if not handled properly. Here are some safety tips to help reduce the chances of these hazards taking place.

It’s important to always wear the proper gear when operating a snowblower. Non-slip boots should be worn for improved traction, along with goggles and earbuds to avoid damaging eyes and ears. Jackets and gloves should be worn to protect from the cold weather conditions. Scarves or hoods with strings attached should NEVER be worn, as these low-hanging items can easily get caught on handles, or even stuck in the impeller blades. If you must wear them, be sure that loose ends are securely tucked-in and out of harm’s way.

Prior to using the snowblower, make sure to read the instruction manual and make sure that everyone using the machine knows how to use it. During use, make sure to keep clear of the discharge opening and keep bystanders at a safe distance from the machine. Chunks of ice and gravel can be thrown out at high speed, and can be very dangerous, even lethal. Keep hands and feet away from the moving components on the machine and never operate the machine without all guards and other safety devices in place and working.

If the snowblower jams:

  • Turn off the machine!
  • Disengage the clutch.
  • Wait at least five seconds after shutting the machine off to allow blaces to completely stop rotating
  • If you need to clear impacted snow, always use a stick or a broom handle…NEVER use your hands for this.
  • Keep a clear head and maintain your concentration. Having a conversation with a neighbor while operating a snow blower can be a recipe for disaster.


These guidelines can help landscapers and other users to mitigate the risks that are inherent with operating a snowblower in cold, snowy conditions.

For more information about our LandProTreePro commercial insurance program, please, visit LandProTreePro.

Herbicide Risks for Landscapers and Arborists

Damaged TreeImage Credit:

Herbicides are sprays that are used to kill invasive species of plants, more commonly known as weeds. Different types of herbicides are used to get rid of certain types of weeds. Using the wrong type of herbicide in the wrong place can have detrimental effects on the plants that the landscaper wants to keep healthy.

However, sometimes things can happen that are totally out of the landscapers control. They use the spray in the right quantities and in the right situations, but damage is still done. The biggest and most recent example of this was caused by an herbicide made by Dupont called Imprelis. The herbicide has been linked to causing irreversible damage to many types of trees including:

  • Norway Spruce: A large evergreen coniferous tree. It is an important timber and ornamental tree native to Northern Europe and is used in reforestation both there and in North America.
  • Deodora Cedar: An excellent evergreen with graceful pendulous branches. They are tall trees with large trunks and massive, irregular heads of spreading heads.
  • Balsam Fir: A North American fir, a small to medium size evergreen tree 46-66 feet tall with a narrow conic crown.
  • Willow Trees: Graceful and refined, easily recognized by its open crown of ground-sweeping branches.
  • Conifer Trees: Conifers or softwoods are classed as gymnosperms or plants with naked seeds not enclosed in an ovary. They have needle leaves and pollen with bladders.
  • Poplar Trees: Any of several species of trees belonging to the willow family, containing 35 species of trees. They are native to North America and divided into three main groups, cottonwoods, aspens and poplars.
  • Eastern White Pine: A large pine native to eastern North America, also known as White Pine, Northern White Pine, Soft Pine and Weymouth Pine in the U.K.

Landscapers and property owners who have reported Imprelis tree death and damage are now faced with the prospect of spending thousands of dollars to replace dead or damaged trees. One landscaper told The New York Times that he had already spent $150,000 to replace customers’ trees that may have been damaged by Imprelis. The executive director of the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association reported that one member was looking to replace 1,000 damaged trees.


Landscapers and Arborists who spray herbicide as part of their operations need to keep up on the sprays they’re using. The environmentally safe herbicide Imprelis turned out to not only kill weeds, but also did permanent damage to trees that landscapers were being held responsible to replace.

Keeping tabs on the sprays that a landscaping business is using can help to mitigate risk and avoid claims being made against the landscaping company. Not to mention, it will aid in keeping the company in a positive light with their customer base.

For more information, visit LandProTreePro.

Arborist Risk Management: Tree Climbing

CarabinerArborists face many risks with the myriad of tree services they perform on the job every day. Of all the workers that make up a tree services team, perhaps the one that faces the most exposure are the men who climb up the tree to cut down dangerous limbs, prune, or prepare a tree to be taken down.

These workers climb up trees that can be anywhere from 15 to 45 feet tall; and in some rare cases even taller. When working at such great heights, safety becomes a number one priority. When it comes to staying safe when scaling large trees, the usefulness of all the safety equipment rides on the shoulders of one small, but very important thing: the carabiner.

Carabiners serve as the connecting point between the harness that is wrapped around the worker and the rope system that is holding him up. The integrity of the carabiner being used directly impacts the safety of the user because if it fails, the worker will fall.

To ensure their safety, tree climbers should always follow these tips before ascending a tree:

  • Check the carabiner locking action before climbing
  • Check the gate has closed fully after each opening
  • Follow manufacturers’ instructions for use and maintenance
  • Avoid circumstances where rope, strops, tree, etc., may exert force on the gate mechanism
  • Remove carabiners from service if they fail to close properly every time
  • Make sure carabiners are thoroughly examined every six months

Tips by: www.HSE.gov

Carabiners serve the greatest role in fall protection for tree services professionals and proper use of them is an efficient way to keep a tree worker safe. By following these guidelines, tree climbers can effectively mitigate the risks they face by being at elevated heights.

For more information, visit LandProTreePro.