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2015 Construction Insurance Trends to Watch

2015 Construction Insurance Trends to Watch

The construction industry finally seems to be in a sustained recovery. As more projects become available, payrolls and equipment investments are increasing. That’s great news for contractors across the nation. However, adequate insurance coverage is even more essential than it was before. Consider the following trends identified by industry experts at the Insurance Journal for 2015.

The Controlled Insurance Program (CIP) is Growing

Originally designed for use on megaprojects, CIPs have become increasingly common in residential construction. The project owner usually sponsors the CIP, and it bundles workers’ compensation and general liability for all the participants. Many general contractors have made CIPs part of their marketing plan because they allow them to lock in their insurance costs throughout the construction and completed operations periods while streamlining claims process and reducing the need for negotiations between multiple insurers.

While convenient, CIPs also present challenges. Any contractor or project owner contemplating a CIP should carefully research potential exposure and available coverage with their insurance professional and risk advisor. Areas to address include making sure limits are large enough to cover potential losses, proper coverage of parties, the handling of repair and warranty work, possible coverage exclusions, and the allocation of deductibles.

Additional Insured (AI) Protection is Changing

The latest ISO AI form contained a number of revisions that create uncertainty in the construction risk management process. For example, one states, “AI coverage only applies to the extent permitted by law,” and introduces a number of questions. Is the AI coverage void if the contractual indemnity provision is voided under a state’s anti-indemnity statute? The usefulness of your AI coverage will depend on how a court of law may interpret the ISO AI form. Discuss this risk with your insurance professional and risk advisor before purchasing.

Negligence Indemnity is Shrinking

The MacDonald analysis (MacDonald v. San Jose (1972) 29 Cal.App.3d 413) has governed indemnity interpretation for many years. However, recent legislation is changing this. In 2006, changes were made to prevent residential builders from seeking indemnity for their own negligence regardless of classification. In 2009, California civil code was amended to allow subcontractors to select their own counsel or pay a “fair share” of builder defense fees. And in 2013, new statues were drafted that prevent all public and commercial owners and contractors from seeking Type 1 indemnity (indemnity for everything but sole negligence). While these were all changes to California civil code, you’ll want to discuss possible changes to code in your own state with your insurance professional and risk advisor.

Contractor’s Equipment Insurance Essentials

Contractor’s Equipment Insurance Essentials

Whether you own, rent or lease equipment for your construction business, some form of contractor’s equipment insurance is necessary to protect your investment and reduce your loss in the event of damage to your tools or machinery. However, before you purchase any contractor’s equipment policy, it’s important to review it carefully. In addition to understanding your deductible and coverage limits, pay particular attention to the following sections.

The Inventory

If a backhoe, forklift, jackhammer or any other construction tool is left off of the inventory and later becomes damaged, you could have problems filing a claim. Take the time to double check that the initial schedule of values is complete and accurate, especially if the policy includes a provision specifically excluding property not listed at the time of underwriting.

The Limit of Liability

It’s often best to obtain contractor’s equipment insurance coverage that includes blanket liability. This means it covers the equipment (and their values) listed in the inventory when you purchase the policy as well as insuring newly acquired equipment from date of purchase. Make sure any sub-limits are sufficient to cover your potential investment.

Equipment Valuations

Choose a policy that will provide you with the replacement cost of damaged equipment or an agreed upon amount. It’s generally best to avoid reimbursement at actual cash value, though this may not be possible with older equipment.

Coverage for Rented Equipment

If you’re in the middle of a project and need to rent a boom lift, you don’t want to discover your contractor’s equipment policy doesn’t cover borrowed equipment. Ask for a policy that covers all rented or borrowed tools up to a sub-limit you can increase or decrease based on the item.

Co-Insurance

Co-Insurance protects the insurer in the event that you’ve undervalued your equipment. It’s typically 80 percent, though that amount may vary. Make sure you understand your risk and value your equipment carefully when buying your policy.

Equipment Transit

Make sure the policy includes full coverage on your equipment during transit to and from the jobsite. Coverage may be underwritten with a sub-limit or be subject to the policy deductible.

Continuing Expenses Reimbursement

If equipment is damaged and you need to rent a replacement to continue your project, you don’t want to be on the hook for the cost. Some contractor’s insurance policies will reimburse you for rental expenses when you file a claim. Others will also cover overtime wages ,if needed to complete the project, and transportation of the rented equipment to your jobsite.

Exclusions

Policy exclusions vary by company. Common exclusions include damage caused by flood, earthquake or war as well as normal wear and tear, rust and corrosion. Your contractor’s insurance policy may also exclude equipment stored or operated underground, boom crane collapse, and equipment not included in the original inventory. Exclusions may be found anywhere in the policy wording, not just in the designated exclusion section, so review the entire document carefully.

Do you have questions about construction industry insurance? Whether you need a builder’s risk, business auto, commercial general liability or other contractor’s policy,  we are here for all your construction-related insurance needs.

Should You Purchase Subcontractor Default Insurance?

Should You Purchase Subcontractor Default Insurance?If you’ve always relied on performance bonds to guarantee that your subcontractors fulfill their contracts, you might want to look into subcontractor default insurance. This attractive alternative can provide you with valuable security in the event a subcontractor breaches contract while lowering your premium costs, eliminating the surety investigation period, and allowing you to work with entities that might not qualify for a bond.

The Cost

Subcontractor default insurance—also known as an SDI policy—includes a deductible and co-payment. For this reason, you can purchase it for as little as 50 percent of the cost of a bond premium, which generally runs between 1.0 to 1.25 percent of the value of the subcontract. While SDI policies usually have limits that are less than the total value of the project’s subcontracts, they also provide coverage for indirect default losses including liquidated damages. Performance bonds rarely cover such indirect damages.

The Parties

Performance bonds set up relationships between three parties: the surety (bonding company), the principal (subcontractor) and the obligee (the contractor). A SDI policy reduces the number of involved parties to two, eliminating the surety and removing the surety investigation period should the contractor file a claim. Because the SDI insures the performance of the subcontractors, the insurance carrier will compensate you directly for any costs associated with a subcontractor default. Additionally, one policy can cover all of the subcontractors you use on your project.

When you use performance bonds, the bonding company must investigate claims resulting from the default of your subcontractor. This can cause major delays and often results in cost overruns. Should the surety accept the claim, they then have the power to dictate how it is resolved. They may forfeit the bond’s penal sum, pay for a new subcontractor, finance the defaulted party or, on rare occasions, allow you to proceed as you see fit.

Subcontractor Qualification

When you use a performance bond, the surety company screens the covered contractor. They analyze the contractor’s financial viability, credit history and past job performance. If the bonding company deems the contractor acceptable, they are subsequently bonded. This can limit the contractors you are able to select for your projects.

SDI policies, on the other hand, allow you to work with whatever contractors you choose. You are responsible for any pre-screening. Insurers won’t examine your contractors to determine if they have the resources to perform the job you’ve hired them to complete. But you’ll no longer be limited to selecting from large contractors with extensive track records. You can use smaller, less experienced companies if you feel they are the right choice for your job.

Are you interested in learning more about subcontractor default insurance? Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further insight or to discuss any of your construction-related insurance needs.

Construction and Hazardous Waste

Construction and Hazardous WasteWhether you work in residential or commercial construction, your crew may encounter or generate hazardous wastes. It’s your responsibility to ensure they know how to identify and separate these hazardous materials—from paints and solvents to adhesives and caulks—from the non-hazardous before engaging in proper disposal. Make mistakes and your construction company may incur fines and face property damage lawsuits.

Why is Hazardous Waste a Big Deal?

Hazardous wastes can pollute land, air and water. They can also endanger human and animal health. Improper disposal—for example, with nonhazardous waste—can pose a health threat to workers and cause problems at landfills. It’s also illegal in many areas. Dispose of hazardous construction waste incorrectly and federal or state law may require you to pay for costly cleanup projects.

Regulations related to hazardous waste include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Additionally, 40 CFR 260-279 addresses federal regulations for hazardous waste management.

What is a Hazardous Waste Exactly?

Hazardous waste includes construction waste that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. Ignitable wastes are those with flash points below 140°F. Examples include solvents and mineral spirits. Corrosive wastes are water-based liquids with a pH less than 2.0 or greater than 12.5. Examples of corrosive wastes include battery acid and alkaline cleaning solvents. Reactive wastes, such as hydrogen sulfide and bleach, are unstable and readily undergo violent chemical reactions when they encounter water or other substances. Toxic wastes, which include lead paint and some adhesives, are harmful due to the presence of metals or organic compounds.

Within the construction environment, you or your crew may encounter thermostats containing mercury, lead paint, lead pipes, fluorescent lamps, hazardous varieties of glues and roofing tars, PCB caulking, mercury or lead-based batteries, aerosol and asbestos among other potentially dangerous materials. Common hazardous chemicals include ammonia, fluorine, nitric acid and sulfur dioxide.

You can find more information on hazardous wastes in the in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) catalog of hazardous and solid waste publications.

How Do I Get Rid of It?

If you uncover or generate hazardous waste during construction, contact a reliable hazardous waste management company or a treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facility. Some landfills will accept certain hazardous wastes as well. To mitigate risk to your workers and the environment, construction contractors should always follow EPA, state and municipal laws and stay informed of hazardous waste regulatory changes on all government levels. You should include hazardous waste discovery and disposal in every site plan and address associated risks in your safety plan.

OSHA Crane Operator Certification Extension Granted

OSHA Crane Operator Certification Extension GrantedIf your construction company employs crane operators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to give you a break. When they finalized their 2010 rule on Cranes and Derricks in Construction back in September, they extended the certification deadline for crane operators by three full years. Originally, OSHA intended to require crane operators to obtain certification by November 10, 2014. However, these construction workers now have until November 10, 2017 to meet the requirement.

This does not mean you don’t need to train your crane operators properly. OSHA has emphasized that even though they’ve delayed the certification requirement, employers must still provide their workers with training that includes everything covered in certification testing. Construction company managers can find direction to more information on these topics in the final rule. At minimum, according to OSHA standard 1926.1427, training should cover:

  • The controls and operational/performance characteristics of the equipment the employee will be operating.
  • How to use (and how to calculate) load/capacity data for various equipment configurations.
  • How to prevent and respond to power line contact.
  • Identifying and dealing with site hazards.
  • Determining the suitability of the supporting ground and surface to handle expected loads.
  • Locating relevant information in the equipment manual and other reference materials.
  • Recognition of shift inspection items required by OSHA.
  • Operational and maneuvering skills.
  • How to apply load chart information.
  • How to safely shut down and secure equipment.
  • Determining whether boom hoist brakes need to be adjusted on friction equipment.
  • Determining if boom repairs are necessary on equipment that doesn’t include a means of brake adjustment.
  • How to halt unintended equipment movement according to the manufacturer’s emergency procedures.

When obtaining certification, your crane operators will take both written and practical tests on these subjects. They should not only be able to provide correct answers to certification questions but also demonstrate those skills in a real world environment.

Keep in mind, while OSHA has extended the federal certification requirement for crane operators, some states and cities have their own licensing requirements in place. In addition, the site safety requirements of some corporations include crane operator certification by an accredited organization. For many construction companies, it makes sense to proceed with operator certification now rather than wait until 2017. Organizations offering certification testing include the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, the Crane Institute Certification, the National Center for Construction Education and Research and Nationwide Crane Training.

Are you confused about OSHA’s crane operator training requirement s? Do you want to know more about getting your employees certified before the 2017 deadline? We can help. Give us a call today.

Does an Aging Workforce Impact Construction Safety?

Does an Aging Workforce Impact Construction Safety?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American workforce will include 31.9 million individuals over the age of 55 by 2015. This statistic should be of particular interest to construction employers who want to maintain safety on their jobsites. Aging not only causes decreases in strength, mobility, vision, hearing and cognition—all factors that can contribute to workplace injuries—it also increases the chances for co-morbidities (for example, a back injury combined with disc degeneration) that lengthen the time necessary for recovery before an employee can return to work.

Consider the following age-related dangers and ways to minimize their effects on your construction workforce’s safety:

Loss of Strength – As we age, our muscle mass tends to decrease. This leads to reduced strength and faster fatigue. Heavy lifting and lowering, tasks requiring grip force, and even simple repetitive movements all become more difficult as strength and endurance declines. Fortunately, you can assist your older workers by reducing the time they spend completing these tasks and providing them with mechanized equipment and tools to compensate. You should also try to keep their work in a neutral zone, eliminating the need to perform while bent over or with a twisted torso.

Diminished Vision – As we age, our eyes begin to lose their ability to adapt to light level changes. Studies have shown that a 60-year-old requires two to three times the amount of light as a 20-year-old. We also become extremely sensitive to glare, and our field of vision and depth perception can suffer as well. This can easily lead to trips, falls and other injuries caused by visual misinterpretation. Improve the safety of the workplace for your older workers by increasing the light available. Utilize task-specific lighting as well as indirect lighting whenever possible.

Reduced Cognitive Ability – As we age, our mental processing and reaction times slow. We may be just as intelligent as ever, but it takes us longer to perform mental tasks. Our motor function also decreases as a result, leading to a reduction in dexterity and coordination. While the degree of decline is generally small, and is unlikely to interfere with a construction worker’s day-to-day performance, it can make learning new tasks challenging. Fortunately, you can assist your older workers by providing them with adequate time to practice.  Hands-on learning opportunities are essential, as is accommodating for any vision or hearing loss within your aging workforce.

Did you consider the demographics of your workforce when creating your jobsite safety and risk management plans? If you’d like further assistance, contact your safety and risk management advisor.

Safety “Must Haves” for Every Construction Company

Safety “Must Haves” for Every Construction Company

You try to keep your jobsite safe, but even one construction accident can have serious financial consequences. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), they’re not limited to workers’ compensation claims or subsequent increases in workers’ compensation insurance premiums; there are indirect costs as well. These range from costs to train replacement workers and repair damaged property to scheduling delays, reduced morale and damaged client relationships.

You can use OSHA’s “$afety Pays” calculator to estimate the amount of construction revenue necessary to cover the direct and indirect costs of a workplace accident or injury. After a few quick keystrokes, it will be easy to see why you need to invest in the following safety “must haves.”

The Support of Management

Everyone in a position of authority—from the company owner to the jobsite supervisor—needs to put safety first and the project second. While most construction projects take place under tight deadlines, accidents are more likely to occur when workers are hurrying through their jobs, cutting safety corners along the way. The human and financial costs associated with the inevitable accident are significantly more expensive than the investment of time to follow protocol. Management must ensure that all workers understand this and perform their jobs accordingly.

Employee Education

Regardless of past experience, all new construction employees should be provided with appropriate training—from safety procedures to the equipment they will be using—before they’re turned loose on the jobsite. Supervisors should spend additional time supervising new employees as well. Seasoned workers can be valuable mentoring and teaching resources; use them wisely.

Tools and Equipment

Every tool and piece of equipment used on your jobsite should be in good condition, working properly and frequently checked for damages. Perform repairs immediately, and retire old equipment and tools when necessary. These rules apply to personal protective equipment (such as hardhats, harnesses, gloves, safety glasses and respirators) as well.

Work Zone Barriers

Whether your jobsite is in the middle of a city or the outskirts of the suburbs, utilize safety fencing or other barriers to keep unauthorized people out of the construction area. Additionally, use safety fencing to alert your construction workers to particularly dangerous areas within the jobsite (such as excavations and openings or locations where they may encounter falling objects).

Easy Access to Safety Materials

You can have the most elaborate jobsite safety plan in the world, the best-stocked first-aid kit, and oodles of equipment manuals and other documentation, but they won’t prevent even a single

Is There an Employment Barrier to Female Construction Workers?

Is There an Employment Barrier to Female Construction Workers?

The answer to that question is yes, at least according to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). They found that the U.S. construction industry and extraction occupations employ 206,000 women and 7.6 million men. That’s only 2.6 percent compared to 97.4 percent. Why does this disparity in employment persist? The report suggests sexual harassment and hostility, a lack of apprenticeships and mentors, and stereotyped assumptions about women’s capabilities all contribute to the problem. And with 1.8 million fewer construction jobs than before the recession, competition for opportunities in the industry is fiercer than ever.

Sexual Harassment and Hostility

The NWLC’s report mentions a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1999. It found that 88 percent of women construction workers had experienced sexual harassment on the job. It’s likely that an even greater percentage has experienced the hostility that women in the industry regularly report. This may take the form of intimidation, exclusion, and reluctance by supervisors to discipline harassing or hostile male workers.

Stereotypes and Apprenticeships

According to the NLWC report, young women in technical education programs are often encouraged to choose occupations that satisfy traditional gender stereotypes. This means they are rarely welcomed into programs for careers that men have traditionally filled, such as construction. If they do make their way into a construction program, administrators may not tell them about the apprenticeship opportunities that are available. And those that manage to land a construction apprenticeship often drop out. In fact, the NLWC reports that 51 percent of the women in construction apprenticeships between 2006 and 2007 did not complete their programs.

What Should You Do?

Regardless of whether your construction company currently employs women or not, you should develop a written sexual harassment policy. Make sure it provides a clear description of sexual harassment, examples of prohibited actions, disciplinary measures, and the procedures for reporting sexual harassment claims. Experts advise against requiring workers to report claims only to their direct supervisor, as it is sometimes this relationship that is considered a harassing one. Instead, provide a number of reporting options.

Take immediate action on every report of sexual harassment. This means you need to promptly investigate each claim and discipline the harassing party according to your sexual harassment policy. While it is not always necessary that you terminate employment of the harassing party, you do need to ensure that he or she will not harass the victim again. You should also review your sexual harassment policy regularly with all of your workers—both male and female.

To ensure your sexual harassment policy complies with any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations, ask your legal advisor to review it. You may also want to engage the assistance of your risk management advisor to help you analyze your company’s risk of a discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit and adjust your jobsite policies accordingly.

 

Green Construction Increases Worker Safety Risks

Green Construction Increases Worker Safety Risks

 

Energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, occupant health—these concerns and more are driving the green building trend and surge in U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified structures. The council predicts total revenue across the eco-friendly construction industry will grow to $245 billion by 2016, and they intend to certify 1 million commercial buildings by 2020.

Unfortunately, the benefits that green construction provides building owners—including reduced operating expenses, higher asset value and a reputation for environmental stewardship—may come at a cost to construction employees. In fact, a study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training suggests that LEED-focused construction projects pose notably higher risks to workers.

Much of this risk comes from exposing workers on green construction projects to tasks and materials that are unfamiliar to them. For example, workers on LEED construction sites may have to work at height while installing solar panels and skylights. They may have to work with vegetated roofing materials and reflective roof membranes. The projects often require them to work with electrical current, near unstable soils and near heavy equipment for a greater period than they would on a traditional project.

Upon examination of the information gathered during the study—from site inspections and project documentation to job-hazard analysis and injury reports—the researchers determined that 14 LEED credentials could contribute to higher risks to construction employees. These included:

  • Sustainable construction waste management – 36 percent increased risk of lacerations, strains and sprains
  • Installation of photo voltaic panels – 24 percent increased risk of falls to a lower level
  • Installation of reflective roof membranes – 19 percent increased risk of eyestrain
  • Installation of green waste water technologies – 14 percent increased risk of exposure to harmful substances

While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to do so, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), issued specific green-building construction safety guidelines in 2013. They noted that green buildings are often tightly sealed and heavily insulated, increasing worker exposure to dust and dangerous compounds during construction. They also noted that green renovations present their own unique hazards, particularly worker encounters with fiberglass and rock wool insulation fibers.

Green building contractors can do the following to improve safety for their workers:

  • Take the time to conduct a comprehensive hazard analysis before you begin any green construction project.
  • Ensure you’ve trained all workers on the hazards they may encounter due to new materials or installation processes.
  • Whenever possible, use low VOC materials to reduce health-related risks in enclosed environments.
  • Decrease reflectivity by choosing tan or light gray roofing membranes rather than white. Alternatively, require your workers to wear tinted eyewear during installation.
  • Ask designers to place photovoltaic panels closer to the ground or in the center of the roof. Consider higher parapets and designed tie-off points to reduce fall risk further.
  • Enlist a local third-party waste management company to sort and recycle construction materials offsite.

Whether you’re a green construction veteran or considering your first eco-friendly project, make sure your risk management plan addresses the increased worker safety risks of green building. Consult your insurance professional for further insight and a plan review today.