CPVCChances are that you’re using chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) – a thermoplastic material – in pipes and related products, because it’s less expensive and easier to install than copper or iron piping. Failure of CPVC components can lead to extensive water damage, and repairs can be costly and complex because these pipes and fittings are located above ceilings, behind walls, and below floors.

In case of a piping mishap, here’s what to do:

Identify the material. CPVC pipes and fittings are usually yellow, cream, orange, or gray. Don’t confuse them with components made of its distant cousin polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has different chemical properties, physical characteristics, and functions. In general, it’s not advisable to combine CPVC components with those made of PVC.

Preserve the failed part for forensic analysis. This involves a complex chemical/materials evaluation that requires unique skills and specialized examination methods, using such advanced techniques as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. To avoid contamination during analysis: 1) don’t tape labels on the damaged part; 2) handle it as little as possible; and 3) if you can’t leave the part in its installed position, wrap it in aluminum foil before placing it in a plastic bag (the materials in these bags can leach out).

Never break open cracked pipes and fittings to see what’s inside. Leave this to a forensic scientist under controlled conditions.

Because CPVC failures can have a variety of causes from raw material flaws and manufacturing defects to improper installation and maintenance, determining which party is responsible can be difficult. However, using proper procedures for installing and maintaining these components can go far to reduce this risk.

A word to the wise… ;-) For more construction risk management tips, feel free to browse around our website or give us a call. You can trust the construction insurance specialists at Mason & Mason!

It’s a Crane… It’s a Truck…

vehicle classificationIf your business use several types of vehicles, it’s important that you classify them properly for insurance coverage purposes. Either of two policies might apply, depending on vehicle classification and whether the policy defines the vehicle as “mobile equipment” or as an “auto.”

As you might expect, Commercial Auto insurance covers your autos, while your General Liability Package policy covers mobile equipment.

It’s clear that bulldozers and pickups are autos. However, when it comes to mobile cranes and other types of self-propelled equipment, the waters get a bit muddier – and if you attach a crane or drilling rig to a pickup or flatbed truck permanently things can get even trickier.

Why should you care? Two words: coverage and cost. Depending on the policy under which the vehicle falls, coverage might vary in both specifics and the amount available to pay claims. Because the two types of policies rate coverage differently, the premium will change. There’s one mistake you definitely want to avoid. In the confusion, make sure you don’t wind up paying for a single vehicle under both policies!

However, there’s a silver lining in this potential dark cloud. The specialists at our agency can review your list of vehicles and check the vehicle classification, assigning each its proper policy, without charging you twice. It’s our job to get things right. If you’re unsure whether your current coverage is treating your trucks as cranes, or the other way around, just give us a call. We’re here to serve you.


Employee Lawsuits – Curb Your Liability

employee lawsuitsDisgruntled workers can sue your business at any time – and even if you win, you’ll be out time, money, and energy defending yourself from employee lawsuits.

The first step in reducing this risk is to ensure that every hire is “clean”, and made purely on the basis of job requirements. The Americans with Disabilities Act has very strict ruleas about what employers can and cannot ask during the hiring process.

To help the cause, industrial relationship experts recommend these guidelines:

  • Avoid discriminatory language when advertising job opportunities. For instance, an advertisement stating “young” or “recent grad” might discriminate against older job applicants, while “’salesman” implies discrimination based on gender.
  • Have a specific job description that gives the essential functions and abilities of the job.
  • Use a standardized interview form that asks all applicants the same questions – which must be related to the job.
  • Don’t ask applicants questions that might identify their membership in a protected class such as age, religion, or national origin, unless it’s essential to the job (For example, a parochial school can ask about the religion of a potential teacher, but not a maintenance worker).
  • Never ask whether an applicant is married, pregnant, has children, or is planning to do so.
  • Ask only questions related to the applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions, not personal items such as past history as such as drug addiction.
  • If an applicant is otherwise fit for a position, don’t refuse to hire him or her based on presumed susceptibility to injury. You can, however, set bona fide physical criteria required by a job, such as the ability to lift a certain weight.

Although these “ounce of prevention” tips can help curb hiring-related discrimination claims, your business also may need a comprehensive Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy to protect against employee lawsuits.

For more information, just give us a call. We’re in the business of protecting you.

Scaffolding Safety

scaffolding safety


At Mason & Mason, we’re all about protection for our contractors. Most construction projects include the use of scaffolding, which can leave your workers vulnerable to injury. To help you prevent falls on site, industry experts recommend that managers follow these proactive guidelines:



  • Slow down or consider efficiency building alternatives. Although the pace of construction work is important, it can easily lead to careless and costly mistakes, including gaps in safety on the jobsite. “You don’t have to sacrifice speed for safety, as long as you’re working at the highest level of efficiency, and being safe plays its own role in this process,” says Mike Mumau, president of Kee Safety – North America.
  • Keep your workplace organized. Careful placement of tools can reduce the risk that they’ll injure workers by falling from scaffolding – and make it safer to move around on the scaffolding.
  • Identify potential hazards and find solutions in advance. For example, if you’re working near power lines, keep scaffolding far enough away to prevent electrocution risks. If scaffolding needs to be moved during the project, have a plan before each move.
  • Provide training. Make sure your workers are trained and up to date on OSHA requirements. “Training in the setup and construction of scaffolding can ensure a solid work space for overhead workers and guarantee a rig that will not inadvertently collapse from instability,” warns Mumau.
  • Keep reviewing the site throughout the project. Be sure to identify any new hazards that might arise during construction. During the course of the job, workers tend to become increasingly more comfortable with “routine” activities – which might easily lead some of them to neglect safety precautions inadvertently (or blatantly).

Our construction safety specialists stand ready at any time to offer a complimentary review of your job site safety programs. Remember… the safer your workers, the healthier your bottom line – and the less you’ll pay for insurance.

Workplace Safety: Materials and Waste Management

workplace safetyEach year around 1,000 trips or slips on construction sites result in fractured bones or dislocated joints, often leading to permanent disability, harming workplace morale, reducing productivity, and raising insurance premiums. Many of these accidents are due to negligence in dealing with building materials or waste. Workplace safety is everyone’s business.

Safety requires co-ordination between the client, contractor(s), and suppliers. Before beginning a project, agree with the client on arrangements for handling materials and waste. Larger projects should include this agreement in the construction phase plan.

To reduce the risk of mishaps in storing materials, experts recommend that you:

  • designate storage areas for materials, waste, and flammable or hazardous substances
  • don’t allow storage to ‘spread’ on walkways or store materials where they might obstruct access or interfere with emergency escape routes
  • store flammable materials separately and protect them from accidental ignition
  • install guard rails if materials are stored in high places
  • keep all storage areas tidy
  • plan deliveries to keep the amount of materials on site to a minimum

In dealing with waste, decide how to manage waste streams produced during construction and assign responsibility for collecting and disposing of these materials on site.

Waste risk reduction guidelines include:

  • Have all flammable waste materials (such as packaging and lumber) cleared away regularly to reduce the risk of fire
  • Make clearing waste a priority for all workers, and be sure that everyone is on the same page
  • Include enough space for waste bins and containers in accessible locations, and set a schedule for collection
  • Provide carts or chutes for safe removal of waste from the building safely

Our construction insurance professionals stand ready to advise you in regards to workplace safety. Give us a call!


Accidents Happen

construction liability insuranceNo matter how much care you take to keep job sites safe and finish projects according to specifications, accidents happen. Sometimes all it takes is one unfortunate situation for your world to come crashing down (check out this suit involving Eddie Van Halen). In many cases, construction liability insurance could be the key to holding it all together. Consider these scenarios:

  • an improperly installed kitchen cabinet shelf in a home you built collapses, injuring the owner
  • one of your employees posts a blog accusing a competitor of shoddy workmanship
  • a visitor to your worksite trips over an air hose, falls, and fractures her leg

To protect your business against the financial threat of costly litigation from such all-too-common mishaps, you need construction liability insurance.

This coverage will pay costs and legal expenses (up to the amount of the policy) for something your business did — or failed to do — that damages a third party, related to

1) your products or services (products and completed operations)

2) allegations of slander (personal and advertising injury) OR

3) injury on your premises or job site (medical expenses)

As a common business practice, both residential and commercial clients will require you, and your subcontractors, to show evidence of construction liability insurance before starting a job.

In general, residential contractors should buy coverage two to three times the amount of the construction budget. Commercial contractors usually carry policies in the multi-million dollar range. Firms that face higher risk of damages (for example, roofing contractors or those in specialized trades) tend to have more coverage. Some contractors prefer to pay their premiums up front, while others make a down payment and finance the premium over the policy period (six months to a year).

No matter how large or small your business, having comprehensive construction liability insurance is always the best policy.

We’d be happy to review your situation and recommend the coverage that’s best suited for you.

The Ten Commandments

hestonNow that you’re picturing Charlton Heston, I’ll tell you we’re not talking about THOSE ten commandments, but these are important as well. Instead we’d like to draw your attention to ten principles of leadership that will help you and your employees to focus on job safety.

  1. Don’t walk by. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent any potentially unsafe acts and conditions they witness from turning into accidents.
  2. STOP! Encourage employees to stop working whenever they feel unsafe, no matter what reason they give.
  3. Focus on a safe working environment. If you expect your workers to work safely, make their workplace as safe as possible.
  4. Don’t blame the worker first. Unsafe ways of working, accidents, incidents, and ill health aren’t necessarily the worker’s fault. The problem often comes from less obvious causes, such as decisions by management.
  5. Use your workforce for ideas. Employees often have a more accurate idea than you or your managers about which safety and health practices will work, because they deal with these issues every day.
  6. Be patient. Don’t expect quick wins. Improvements in job safety will emerge over time, but only if you stick with them.
  7. Explain your decisions. Just telling workers that something is wrong or a safety risk isn’t enough. If they’re to act on the information you provide, they need to know why and how to avoid harm.
  8. Lead by example. Your behavior sends powerful signals. If you carry out your job in a safe way, your workers are more likely to do the same. If you don’t, they won’t imitate you.
  9. Focus on co-operation. Treat your subcontractors in the same way as employees by encouraging them to communicate with each other.
  10. Don’t neglect occupational health. If you look after the health, as well as the safety, of your workers today, you’re less likely to create problems for them or your business tomorrow.

Sound advice! If you follow these commandments carefully, you will see job safety improve over time. By nature, most organizations resist change. Successful business owners will learn how to take these ten commandments and integrate them into the culture of their company. They will help their construction supervisors to go from simply managing, to leading.

At Mason & Mason, we’re pleased to be part of your team. Managing risk is our business – thank you for trusting us with yours.

Green Building is Great – But how will your insurance apply?

green handsEnvironmentally-friendly construction (also known as green building) is increasing rapidly in the United States. Concerns about global climate change, U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy, and rising energy costs are inspiring individuals and businesses to construct buildings with a reduced carbon footprint. This trend has important implications for settlement of insurance claims when green buildings suffer damage.

A green building is one that has met the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED in 1998 as a way to help building owners identify and use practical and measurable designs, construction, operations and maintenance practices that are environmentally-friendly. Green buildings are, compared to standard buildings, more energy and water efficient, produce less carbon dioxide, and have a healthier indoor environment.

Some states and municipalities have begun to adopt building codes that require elements of green construction. California has imposed tougher water efficiency standards on new residential construction; New York City is considering more stringent energy-use standards for large buildings.

The impact of these requirements on construction costs will vary by location. Green construction might require specialized materials and methods. In the near term, contractors with expertise in these methods may be relatively scarce. That means that in some places the cost of complying with green building codes could be higher than building with standard materials and methods, and that will impact insurance coverage.

The factors that will influence the claim include:

  • Whether the green building code applies to new construction only or also to major renovations.
  • What the code defines as a “major renovation.” Some codes might consider renovations affecting more than a specified percentage of the building’s area as a major renovation.
  • How will use of green building materials affect the building’s appearance? The property owner might lose enthusiasm for a repair if a change in appearance will lower the building’s market value.
  • How will the new materials interact with the existing building components? Will integrating the new materials increase rebuilding time and cost?
  • Are qualified contractors available in the area?
  • Will wait times for green contractors and materials result in costly project delays?
  • How does the building code apply in the event of a large natural catastrophe, such as an earthquake or hurricane? Must property owners meet the higher standards at a time when hundreds of properties have suffered damage?
  • After a catastrophe, will there be long wait times for contractors to haul away debris because of overwhelmed landfills and recycling centers? Will there be long wait times for building inspectors to visit and approve all of the effected properties?

Standard personal and commercial property insurance policies provide very limited amounts of coverage for “ordinance or law” losses — extra costs incurred to meet local building requirements — but additional coverage is available. Property owners in areas with green building codes should speak with our insurance agents about options and costs.

Research and publishing company McGraw-Hill Construction has predicted that the market for non-residential building retrofitting with green building will grow to $15 billion by 2014. Property owners and insurance companies will have to address these questions much more often in the near future. The time to answer them is before the losses occur.

New Technologies Help Contractors Manage Risk

More and more construction contractors are using new technologies in the form of mobile and Web-based software solutions to qualify subcontractors, keep workers safe, and manage their vehicles and equipment.

For example, Weitz Co. (Des Moines, IA) uses a centralized electronic project bid and prequalification submission database for its subcontractors that has significantly reduced the labor and time needed to process submissions. Says Vice President of Risk Management Maria Matamoros, “We’re already seeing enhanced consistency in our pre-qualifications, and it’s helping us generate a high-quality subcontractor pool.”

Hoar Construction (Birmingham, AL) has a Web-based portal through which managers use their company-issued iPads to file state and federal inspection site inspection forms and access subcontractor evaluation reports, as well as a digital library of safety manuals and tutorials, “More importantly, it has allowed us to keep our superintendents and our project managers in the field,” according to Hoar Corporate Safety Director Bart Wilder, “which gives them more time to evaluate and find ways of mitigating risk.”

Goodfellow Brothers Inc. (Kihei, HI) upgraded its fleet with wireless handheld transmitters that operators use to submit daily inspection reports on their vehicles. During the two years since the upgrade, the company slashed its Auto Liability losses by more than 70%.

new technologiesHowever, contractors need to make sure that new risk management technologies are compatible with their operations and workforce. “One size certainly does not fit all,” warns the Weitz Co.’s Matamoros. Goodfellow President Chad Goodfellow describes the new system as “a challenge for some of our people and for our management, because we want to demonstrate that we do trust our employees, but at the same time, we have to trust and verify.”

New technologies can certainly improve efficiency, and even safety, but they must be adapted to the needs of your crew and implemented carefully. Are you using new technologies? Let us know! We’re interested to see how our clients are putting technology to work for their companies.

Worker Safety Essentials

worker safetyA resurgent construction industry needs to improve worker safety. That’s the bottom line of a recent report by Marsh Risk Consulting.

Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study, “Building Safety and Leadership in the Construction Industry,” notes that the industry’s 2012 fatality rate increased to 9.5 per 100,000 workers from 9.1 per 100,000 in 2011. The 775 construction-sector deaths in 2012 marks the first annual increase in work-related fatalities since 2006.

According to Marsh, fatalities will probably continue to rise without concerted industry-wide safety improvements, as an ongoing shortage of experienced construction workers leads to widespread promotion of unskilled workers into supervisory roles. “The increase in new construction activity is bringing an influx of new, inexperienced workers,” states the report. “In this environment, some contractors are stretching their hiring standards to meet project demands.”

Marsh recommends that construction firms focus on training management to ensure effective leadership and help build a culture of worker safety throughout their organizations.

“As the economy grows and the number of new construction projects picks up, now is not the time to be lax on safety,” warns John Moore, a construction safety specialist in Marsh’s workforce strategies practice. “Inadequate safety performance can lead to employee turnover and legal, financial and reputational risks. Investing in high-quality leadership will go a long way toward retaining valued workers and maintaining a safe work environment.”

The more you do to keep your workers, safe, the better for all concerned– and the lower your insurance costs. We stand ready to offer our advice on developing, implementing, and enforcing worker safety standards. Just give us a call.