Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The ABCs Of Protecting A Cleaning Business

September 19, 2010

Often, building service contractors (BSCs) work after hours and out of sight.

However, when something goes wrong, such as an accident that results in unexpected costs or legal action, they are likely to feel an unwelcomed spotlight of concern from their customers.

What Can Go Wrong

"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Commonly known as Murphy''s Law, this old adage tells us we always need to take precautions.

There are several examples of things that can go wrong.

A building tenant may come in at an unexpected time, encounter a wet spot on the floor left from mopping, fall and become injured.

An employee may accidentally lose building keys, causing your customer to demand that you cover the cost of changing locks and buying new keys.

A bathroom countertop may inadvertently be damaged by a corrosive cleaning product applied by your employee.

An employee sent to purchase additional supplies may become involved in a car accident, either in his/her own automobile or in a company vehicle.

The costs to resolve these types of scenarios — either by paying for damages or hiring a lawyer to fight a lawsuit — can be excessive.

That''s why help from an independent insurance agent and having a comprehensive insurance program with coverage specifically designed for building service contractors is critical.

A-B-C of Protection

"A" stands for the coverage that "all" businesses need.

All businesses carry some form of insurance, either mandated by law or because it makes sense.

General liability, for example, insures your company against liability for injuries or damages that arise out of the operation of your business.

For instance, if someone slips and falls because one of your workers has stretched a vacuum cleaner cord across a pathway, you could be sued for damages.

General liability coverage helps you settle the claim or defends you in court if the accident was not related to your operations.

Workers'' compensation is required by all states and companies with employees must carry workers'' compensation insurance.

This coverage provides medical care and wage replacement benefits for your employees if they are injured while on the job.

Each state mandates exactly what kind of coverage companies must have.

In addition to comparing coverage, it is also recommended that a thorough comparison of service be conducted.

A few examples of value-added services include: Identification and recommendations to minimize risk; assistance with training employees in proper ergonomic and chemical handling procedures; and fair and aggressive claims resolution strategies.

Commercial automobile coverage is another popular example of insurance.

Vehicle accidents are usually the most expensive claims.

If your company has vehicles, you must have coverage for injuries or damages your driver may cause and for repair or replacement if they are involved in a collision.

Even if you do not own vehicles as part of your business, you need coverage to protect against accidents you or your employees may have while transporting equipment or getting supplies from one place to another.

"B" is for the coverage that "building" owners will value.

Your customers want to know that you are watching out for their interests when it comes to insurance.

One example of coverage that you should secure is crime insurance.

This provides coverage against theft of your customer''s property by one of your employees.

Since your employees often work after hours when few building tenants are onsite, they may be blamed for missing items.

In addition, property damage coverage can be obtained.

When a building owner contracts with your service, you become responsible for the care, custody and control of the customer''s personal property.

You need insurance to cover damage during the cleaning process.

"C" is for the coverage that specifically addresses "cleaning" company risks.

Every business is different, including the type of equipment that is owned and the array of chemicals that are used.

Coverage designed for cleaning services includes equipment protection and environmental liability.

By listing your equipment, your business can be covered if equipment is lost or damaged while in transit.

Environmental liability provides coverage for property damage and cleanup costs that may be required if chemicals, such as industrial solvents, are accidentally spilled.

Minding your ABCs of buying business insurance will help you identify a carrier that has thought about the unique exposure and corresponding coverage of the BSC industry.

Once the right policy is in place, you can worry less about the impact of a claim and instead focus on making a clean sweep to deliver satisfaction to your customers.

Deb Denker is the industry manager for building services contractors for Travelers Commercial Accounts.