If you’re a member builder of RWC and you have general liability insurance provided through the RWC Insurance Advantage, you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your major structural warranty claims and your third party liability claims are insured by one company.  Separate warranty and liability companies will sometimes fight each other over who has the claim.  Our January 2018 blog “IS IT A LIABILITY LOSS, OR IS IT A WARRANTY CLAIM?” explains why this is so important.  But what does all this mean in the strange new world of COVID-19? 

Where warranties are concerned, there’s practically no impact caused by the pandemic.  With general liability, however, a whole range of potentially serious problems present themselves.  Chances are you haven’t given much thought to your third-party liability loss potential.  That’s understandable.  While most states considered construction “non-essential,” many builders were simply struggling to stay in business.  Besides, you might be thinking, “if I’m shut down, how can I have any third party claims in the first place?”  True, not working is probably your best means of preventing liability losses; however, most states have begun to resume residential construction.  As we get back to normal, whatever that will turn out to be, it's very hard to determine just what the plans are for getting there.  How does a builder manage a construction site in such a way as to maintain social distancing?  How do you protect the public?  What are your responsibilities to the employees of your subcontractors?  To your own employees? 

This is where solid answers to these perplexing questions should appear.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged all of us into uncharted waters.  There are no pat answers, but you can protect yourself and your business by knowing what your state requires.  It is up to each state to determine safeguards for the public and employees.  The following should be considered a general list of guidelines for the construction industry:*

  • Every person present at a worksite must wear a face mask.
  • Establish and execute proper protocols upon discovering that a person with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis has appeared.
  • Follow all applicable provisions providing for building safety measures.
  • Follow other applicable Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.  Click here for CDC guidelines.
  • Require social distancing of 6-feet minimum distance between workers unless worker or public safety requires a deviation.  Examples include team lifting and drywalling.
  • Implement protocols for cleaning and sanitizing at all worksites and construction projects. 
  • Identify and regularly clean and disinfect common areas and high traffic spaces.
  • Make sure no gathering exceeds 10 people and maintain 6-feet social distance between everyone.
    • SPECIAL NOTE:  Be aware some states are much stricter regarding residential construction.  Pennsylvania imposes a 4-person limit, for example. 
  • Utilize virtual meetings, transmit information via email, texting or other electronic media whenever possible.
  • Stagger shifts, rest breaks, lunch times, etc.
  • Avoid stacking of trades where possible to minimize the number of workers on the site.
  • Limit tool sharing and regularly sanitize those tools that must be shared.
  • Utilize CDC guidance for jobsite screening.  Encourage sick employees to stay home.  Prohibit those with COVID-19 symptoms from working.  See to it they see a doctor for possible referral for testing.
  • Limit access to enclosed spaces as much as possible.
  • Ensure workers travel to and from jobsites separately.  Avoid sharing vehicles as much as possible including while working.
  • Identify and empower one person for each jobsite or project to convey, implement and enforce social distancing and other requirements of this guidance.

Remember, members of the public are not just passersby.  They include suppliers, delivery people, inspectors and others who may be required to visit your jobsites from time to time. 

One last sobering thought:  for every bullet point listed above, failure to adhere can lead to a third party claim.  One person on site without a mask can become the reason for a lawsuit filed against you by the person who gets sick. 

These are the times in which we live.  The crisis will pass, but until it does IDENTIFY, IMPLEMENT AND ENFORCE a plan of action so that your business doesn’t become another casualty of COVID-19.

*(Be sure to check with the appropriate authority in your state to be certain what guidance is required.)

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