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5 Tips to Help Your NH Small Business From Being Sued this Winter

Being a small business owner can be stressful.  You have to manage your employees, customers, products and cash flow.  With all these balls in the air, a law suit can cause all of these balls to fall around you given the stress and time needed to deal with it.  What is the easiest way to deal with a law suit - prevent it from happening in the first place.  Here are some tips from the risk control specialists at HPM Insurance of Milford on preventing the most common claims we see from our NH small business customers.

1. Ensure parking lot and entry ways are cleared of ice and snow

One of the most common claims facing a small business is an outside slip and fall.  This can lead to not only a liability suit from the public but also a workers compensation claim from your staff.  The best way to prevent this is to ensure that you regularly monitor the area for which you are responsible.  If your business is located in an area that includes a public sidewalk, be sure you are clear who is responsible for what - you, the landlord, the town?

Ensure someone is regularly checking the parking lot and walkways on a regular basis.  Even when the snow is no longer falling, it can be melting and re-freezing causing a new hazard that must be addressed. 

If you utilize a plowing contractor, ensure you receive a current certificate of insurance verifying an auto policy, general liability policy and a workers compensation policy if they are not a sole proprietor.

2. Use all-weather mats

This will prevent excessive water and debris at entryways.  Select mats that will not curl by design and have a beveled or flat edge to reduce tripping exposure.  Also select a mat that will guard against damage to underlying floor surface caused by mold and mildew.  Be sure to routinely inspect mats for damage and excess wear and replace as necessary.

3. Leave an umbrella stand and/or coat rack near doorway for wet or bulky items

Carrying a wet, dripping coat and umbrella throughout a business can leave a trail of water that can easily cause a slipping hazard.  Depending on the square footage of the business, clients may not only appreciate not having to lug their bulky winter coat throughout your establishment, but it also may prevent them from slipping.  Heavy coats can also keep folks from seeing where they are walking which may increase the likelihood of a claim.

4. Ensure proper signage regarding unusual floor surfaces

Many of the businesses in New Hampshire are in older buildings with unusual or unexpected steps.  Ensure that such areas are well marked with signage.  Make an extra effort to inform a person who may have more difficulty seeing or navigating such an area.

5. Ensure roof lines and overhangs are cleared of ice and snow

Melting snow and icicles can be especially dangerous to customers and employees entering and exiting a building.  If snow is accumulating during a storm, ensure you have proper signage indicating the risk.  If the storm has passed, see that the snow and icicles are removed.  Again - if a contractor is used, obtain current certificates of insurance.

Given that it is only December in New Hampshire, we have a long way to go until we see the tulips and crocuses appear.  A little prevention can go a long way in making your winter be smooth sailing... or sledding.  Stay safe!

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