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MANAGING YOUR RISK - MARCH 2008

Control Your Jobsite Hazards to Control
Insurance Cost
By Anthony Bevilacqua

No one likes to be the subject of a lawsuit, just as no one wants to be the injured party that brings the action against another. According to well documented labor statistics, construction work is one of the most hazardous professions, and a construction worksite is one of the most hazardous places of business. Commercial construction projects routinely limit access to the jobsite from the general public. Further, access is limited only to construction workers who have been properly trained in jobsite safety awareness, employ safe work habits, and utilize personal protective equipment to conduct their work and avoid injuries from others working on the job.

Yet, we routinely visit residential home construction sites that are open invitations for disaster from subcontractors, neighbors, inspectors, home buyers or anyone driving or walking down the street. It is not expected that a residential work site contain the same safety precautions one would find on a commercial project (perimeter fencing, off work hour watchmen, temporary lighting, and the like). But basic precautions are a must, regardless the size of the job.

First, protect floor openings against falls between levels. This type of accident is one of the most common to occur at a home site. Use toe boards as one precaution. Temporary railings are another. Use temporary handrails on staircases. Use them on permanently installed stairs prior to the attachment of final railings. Do not allow contractors ladders to remain in place at the end of the work day.

Housekeeping is extremely important, not just inside the home but around the perimeter, too. The builder needs to control the trip and fall hazard at a site. Diligent home builders require their subs to clean the area around their work at the end of each day. Have strategically placed dumpsters around the site for construction trash. Designate an area at each home site where debris is to be gathered for pick up.

Use construction tape and barriers around open excavations at the street. Avoid leaving open trenches for footings, utility lines and the like immediately adjacent to the home unprotected when work is unfinished for a period of time. Barriers and construction tape are again a simple solution.

Post no trespassing signs at the entrance to the site and in each home. This type of sign does not absolve a builder of liability. Rather, it aids the builder in their defense of a lawsuit if an unauthorized person is injured while on the site.

To the best of your ability, avoid buyers from walking through the home unless accompanied by a designated representative of the builder. Consider allowing home buyers to view progress only at designated times during the course of construction.

Regardless of the fact subcontractors perform virtually all the work in the construction of a home, the home builder or general contractor is directly responsible for all jobsite safety. That is a fact of OSHA and of our court system. Leaving yourself vulnerable to jobsite accidents from a lack of supervision is one sure way to take the lid off insurance rates.

Anthony Bevilacqua, CPCU is President of Anthony & Company, an independent insurance agency with special insurance and risk management services tailored to the needs of the commercial and residential development community. You can reach Mr. Bevilacqua at (908) 806-8844 or email him at insure@anthonycompany.com.

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