Canadian Underwriter

Why the basics count in construction loss prevention

August 9, 2022   by Philip Porado

Construction hoarding and danger sign to keep people off a building site

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Inflated materials costs, and a need for brokers and insurers to see to it that valuations for commercial structures closely track replacement costs, are frequently mentioned in conversations about risks for the building sector these days.

But site safety is also a major concern and shouldn’t be overlooked, said Steve Schmelzle, practice leader, construction and contracting at Intact Insurance Specialty Solutions.

His team—which includes several engineers—works with builders of commercial and civil construction projects to provide input on best practices to reduce risks and ensure proper coverage is in place.

“Getting that protection for the public—fencing signage, hoardings—all sounds very standard, but we see stories on the news [about] people that are climbing cranes and doing all kinds of things,” he told Canadian Underwriter. “Those protections are important.”

Years ago, he noted, site safety had become something of an afterthought. But given the increased pace of projects in highly populated areas, that can’t continue.

Construction sites also play host to large stores of high-value, critical materials and expensive equipment that’s easy to damage and costly to repair, Schmelzle noted. And civil projects can be very vulnerable to weather and need to be protected from storms and other events that can lead to cash-draining setbacks.

“That theft and vandalism protection [is critical] for more urban sites, particularly as materials become more scarce and tougher to replace, which unfortunately increases [their] theft attractiveness,” he said.

Items that are commonly stolen include copper wiring and plumbing materials and, in the energy space, things like solar panels and inverters that can be picked up relatively easily.

“What we see more frequently [is theft of items] that are a little bit lower value,” Schmelzle said. “From an engineer’s perspective, the focus on mitigation is around what you can control—things like project materials and those of high attractiveness.”


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