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COVID-19 and cleaning businesses: How to keep your business safe from risks

Posted by NBDC Communications on May 13, 2020 04:34:49 PM

NBDC Communications

Cleaning businesses are at the front lines battling against the spread of COVID-19. Take these steps to keep your employees, your customers, and your business healthy.SBDC-Business-Sanitation

While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is hurting businesses across many industries, cleaning and janitorial businesses have seen a sharp increase in demand.

Cleaning service requests are pouring in as businesses and households try to prevent further infection. The online jobs platform ZipRecruiter reports that March 2020 demand for cleaners is up 75% from a year ago.

As cleaning businesses hustle to meet the changing needs of new and current customers, they must also prepare for possible financial and physical risks.

Follow these practical steps to avoid potential pitfalls if you take on the coronavirus.

Use trusted cleaning products and processes, and present your business accurately

The right tools, techniques, and training can help protect your business. But beware of using new chemicals and cleaning methods to fight COVID-19. It could spell trouble for your business.

If you’re not careful, you could easily damage a client’s surfaces when using chemical agents or approaches you’re not familiar with. And insurance probably won’t cover it.

Let’s say you used an unfamiliar solvent to clean a multimillion dollar home. It ruined the hardware on the sink and caused nearly $10,000 in damages. Your business’s general liability insurance policy didn’t cover those costs.

In the example above, an errors and omissions (E&O) policy might have covered a portion of the damages, but you’d need to check with your insurance agent to confirm.

If you advertise that your business can “sanitize” a location but fail to remove the coronavirus, you could be sued or found liable. A general liability policy might not cover the cost of that damage. Your E&O policy may address this coverage, but many do not.

Covering the expense of property damage or negligence isn’t cheap. But it’s nothing compared to the costs of illness to your workers caused by COVID-19.

Employees are your most valuable asset, and you need to protect them from on-the-job risks, including infection.

Protect your workers from coronavirus exposure, harsh chemicals, and training being lost in translation

If you’re dealing with COVID-19, one of your top priorities should be to keep your employees safe and healthy.

To help protect them, take these steps:

• Use the right disinfectants. While widely reported that the coronavirus can be easily killed, COVID-19 can survive on some surfaces for days. To be safe, use cleaning products from this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list of effective disinfectants for COVID-19.

• Outfit your employees with appropriate protective gear. Depending on the job and the chances of exposure, this may include hand sanitizer, eye protection, gloves, masks (possibly N95 respirators), and more.

• Provide the proper employee training. Some cleaning businesses have employees who aren’t proficient in English. Make sure they know the chemicals they’re using, and what to do if they get them on their skin or in their eyes.

Cleaning can be a dangerous occupation for workers at any time. But in a pandemic, those risks multiply.

If one of your employees is injured or infected on the job, lost wages and medical expenses are typically covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

How workers’ comp will handle COVID-19 infections is evolving, and it varies by state. The big hurdle for workers with a COVID-19 claim might be proving they were infected on the job.

An employee could claim that your negligence caused their illness or injury. In that case, they could file a lawsuit.

If they do sue, employers’ liability insurance might cover the costs of the lawsuit. This is usually part B of your workers’ comp policy. An employment practices liability policy could also help.

You’ll need these policies in place before any legal action is taken.

Take time now to understand what your business insurance policies cover and ensure you’re protected from potential losses.

Put the right insurance coverage in place

The best way to protect your cleaning business is purchasing insurance policies to cover all the scenarios we’ve illustrated.

Consider these policies for your cleaning business.

• General liability insurance

The most popular insurance for cleaning businesses is general liability insurance. It covers third-party property damage and injuries, as well as advertising injuries like defamation or copyright infringement.

General liability insurance covers expenses such as:

– third-party medical costs
– attorney fees
– negotiated settlements
– court-ordered judgments

General liability insurance does not cover the risks of environmental exposure, however. Exposure to cleaning chemicals or the coronavirus could cause injury, illness, or property damage. To cover those losses or legal costs, businesses would need pollution liability insurance and professional liability insurance.

• Workers’ compensation insurance

Workers’ comp insurance covers lost wages and medical expenses if an employee becomes ill or is injured on the job. This coverage is required by most states.

• Janitorial/surety bonds

Many clients won’t hire cleaning services unless they’re bonded and insured. Janitorial/surety bonds protect your business from employee theft or accusations of theft.

Bonded businesses have greater credibility and an advantage over the competition.

• Commercial auto insurance

If your business uses company-owned vehicles to service clients, you need commercial auto insurance. This policy will cover vehicle theft, damage, and accident-related costs such as property damage, medical bills, or legal costs.

If you own a cleaning business, the current pandemic may offer additional revenue. But make sure the risks don’t outweigh the potential rewards.

Make sure you have the appropriate insurance policies in place to protect your investment. You may want to act quickly to find the right quote and lock in the best price, as insurance rates will only go up. With the right coverage and the right steps, you can keep your business, clients, and employees healthy.

Printed with permission from ASBDC. For the original article, click here.