Landscaping contractors are trained professionals who typically perform a range of operations associated with installing and maintaining landscapes in order to keep vegetation attractive, orderly and safe. They may provide residential or commercial services and conduct their work in various settings, such as office spaces and customers’ properties. Common tasks for landscaping contractors include mowing, edging and fertilizing lawns; weeding and mulching landscape beds; trimming hedges, shrubs and small trees; removing dead, damaged or otherwise unwanted trees and branches; planting flowers, shrubs, trees and other vegetation; applying pesticides, herbicides and other treatments to soil and plants; watering lawns and gardens; and monitoring overall landscape health.
Landscaping contractors have a number of risks to consider, including property concerns, employee safety issues and liability exposures. As such, it’s crucial they protect both themselves and their operations against possible losses by securing proper insurance. Keep reading for an outline of common exposures in the landscaping industry and associated coverage considerations.
Here’s a breakdown of key exposures landscaping contractors may face in their operations:
Property—Landscaping contractors often leverage several types of tools and equipment (e.g., chainsaws, chippers, picks, rakes, shovels, hedge trimmers, garden shears, power mulchers and tillers, lawnmowers, spraying devices, tractors, bulldozers, backhoes, tree-climbing and -pruning equipment, and dump trucks) to perform their services. These professionals also tend to have office spaces and storage areas where they carry out general business activities and keep important job materials (e.g., protective equipment and excess landscaping products). However, a range of unexpected events—including theft, vandalism, accidents, fires and inclement weather—may result in this property becoming damaged, stolen or destroyed, potentially leaving landscaping contractors with significant recovery expenses. Some landscaping equipment may even be particularly prone to malfunctions and breakdowns, posing additional property concerns and recovery costs. Apart from repairing and replacing their affected property, these professionals could experience business interruptions (e.g., lost productivity, temporary closures and delayed projects) amid recovery processes, compounding related losses.
Auto—These professionals frequently use vehicles to travel between job sites and transport their materials, tools and equipment. Whether it’s a single vehicle or a large fleet, owning and operating vehicles carries various exposures. After all, it only takes one accident on the road to cause major losses. Following auto accidents, landscaping contractors could encounter substantial expenses stemming from vehicle repairs and bodily injuries.
Employee safety—Even if landscaping contractors take proper precautions to protect their employees at work, job-related injuries and illnesses can still happen. Common occupational ailments in the landscaping sector include musculoskeletal disorders from performing repetitive tasks; cuts and abrasions associated with using certain tools and equipment; sprains and strains from lifting heavy items; crushing and struck-by injuries due to working near large objects (e.g., trees and branches); respiratory conditions and skin damage caused by handling fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and other hazardous substances; eye injuries from exposure to flying particles (e.g., sawdust); slips and falls related to working at heights; hearing loss from prolonged use of loud equipment; various illnesses associated with exposure to extreme temperatures and weather conditions; electric shock or electrocution due to operating power tools and working near power lines; and impact injuries from auto accidents. If their employees get injured or become ill on the job, landscaping contractors could be held responsible for costs stemming from their workers’ hospital bills, treatment expenses and lost wages.
Liability—If any third parties (e.g., customers, suppliers or passersby) experience injuries or damages on landscaping contractors’ premises or as a result of their operations, these professionals could be held liable for the associated losses. For example, a supplier may file a lawsuit against a landscaping contractor if they slip and fall while visiting the contractor’s storage area. Furthermore, landscaping contractors could face completed operations losses if customers allege any finished services or projects injured them or damaged their property.
Environmental—Because landscaping contractors utilize certain hazardous substances (e.g., fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides) and perform primarily outdoor operations that—if conducted poorly or incorrectly—could harm the environment, they also face environmental liability exposures. Specifically, they could be held responsible for the related losses if they contribute to pollution concerns involving harmful substances or other environmental incidents resulting in third-party injuries or property damage. For instance, landscaping contractors may be held liable for environmental damages due to actions such as emitting volatile organic compounds into the air as a result of improper storage of pesticides or releasing hazardous runoff into public soil or water sources following a fertilizer spillage or overapplication incident.
Cyber—Many landscaping contractors have begun relying on digital systems and software to store customers’ personal and financial data, such as their names, phone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers and bank information. Yet, amid growing cyberthreats, using such technology could make these professionals increasingly vulnerable to data breaches and other digital attacks. Following such incidents, landscaping contractors could encounter costs related to notifying impacted individuals, recovering lost or damaged data and technology, handling associated legal ramifications and reputational losses, and implementing additional cybersecurity measures to prevent future incidents.
To help address their exposures and stay protected from potential losses, landscaping contractors should consider the following forms of coverage:
- Commercial property coverage—If a landscaping contractor’s commercial property—such as their office area, storage space, tools and equipment—gets damaged, stolen or destroyed due to a covered event, this type of insurance can assist with the repair or replacement expenses.
- Equipment breakdown insurance—Such coverage can help reimburse lost income and repair or replacement costs resulting from a landscaping contractor’s equipment malfunctioning or otherwise breaking down.
- Commercial auto coverage—This type of insurance can assist with vehicle repair and bodily injury expenses if any vehicles in a landscaping contractor’s fleet end up in an accident on the road.
- Inland marine/installation floater insurance—Such coverage can help pay for losses stemming from a landscaping contractor’s materials, tools and equipment getting lost, stolen or damaged while in transit.
- Workers’ compensation coverage—If a landscaping contractor’s employees get injured or become ill on the job, this coverage can help reimburse hospital bills, treatment costs and lost wages.
- General liability insurance—This coverage can provide protection if a landscaping contractor is held legally or financially liable for injuries, harm or damage to another party or their property.
- Completed operations coverage—If a customer holds a landscaping contractor responsible for injuries or property damage that occurred due to the faulty completion of a project, this type of insurance can help pay the related costs.
- Cyber liability insurance—Such coverage can assist with various first- and third-party expenses that may result from a landscaping contractor experiencing a data breach or other cyber incident.
- Errors and omissions (E&O) coverage—If a customer claims that a landscaping contractor provided negligent services, didn’t uphold contractual promises, conducted incomplete or substandard work, or made other professional mistakes or omissions, E&O insurance can help cover the associated costs.
- Environmental liability/pollution insurance—If a landscaping contractor is held liable for the release of pollutants or other environmental incidents amid their operations, this coverage can help reimburse bodily injury, property damage, cleanup and defense expenses.
- Employment practices liability (EPL) coverage—EPL insurance can assist with defense costs in the event that a landscaping contractor is faced with employee lawsuits alleging workplace discrimination or harassment, wrongful termination or discipline, or failure to employ or promote.
- Umbrella and excess insurance—If a landscaping contractor’s claim expenses exceed the limits for their primary liability policies (e.g., commercial auto and general liability insurance), this coverage can increase those limits. Additionally, umbrella policies can help broaden existing policy coverage.
Contact us today for additional risk management guidance and insurance solutions.