Canadian Underwriter

Restoration Contractors’ organization working on asbestos handling protocol

June 24, 2013   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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Contractors specializing in cleaning and repairing damaged properties for insurance clients face competition from general contractors who tout their expertise in asbestos remediation, even though restoration specialists may have the requisite qualifications, suggests an official with the Restoration Contractors Organization of Canada (RCOC).

Asbestos liability in P&C industry

“There are contractors out there who are telling your customers that you shouldn’t be doing asbestos work,” RCOC president Kyle Urech told his members during the association’s annual general meeting June 18 in Niagara Falls, Ont.

“They know that you’re qualified. They know that you’re trained. They know that you’re insured to do the work but there’s no national asbestos protocol.”

The national asbestos protocol that RCOC is working on, he suggested, would be copyrighted and available exclusively to RCOC members.

RCOC was formed two years ago to represent restoration contractors in matters relating to health and safety, governmental & regulatory affairs and business practices. Its original members founding members were Winmar, Canadian Disaster Restoration Group (CDRG), DKI Canada (originally called Disaster Kleenup Canada Ltd.), BELFOR, FirstOnSite Restoration, Service Master of Canada, First General Services Ltd. and Paul Davis Systems.

As of June 17, RCOC had 35 members, including five who joined during the first day of its two-day exposition and AGM at the Sheraton on the Falls.

Urech noted all provinces have asbestos regulations, but suggested restoration contractors need a guide on how to handle projects, and that guide should take into account all the regulations.

General construction contractors, Urech noted, are marketing their own asbestos protocols.

“They are saying, ‘We have a national asbestos protocol and these restoration guys don’t so we should be doing the asbestos work.'”

Before 1985, Urech said, “there was quite a bit of asbestos” used in building materials, and a “large proportion” of restoration contractors’ work is on buildings containing asbestos.

According to Health Canada, asbestos was used “widely” in insulation board, floor and ceiling tiles as well as drywall joint cement, so there is a risk to workers exposed to materials in older buildings undergoing renovation or demolition. Health risks of asbestos exposure include mesothelioma and several other cancers.

Asbestos is also a major liability for P&C insurance industry. According to a December 2012 report from A.M. Best Company Inc., the “net ultimate” losses due to asbestos for the U.S. P&C industry is now US$85 billion, net of reinsurance.

Most U.S. carriers started excluding asbestos from liability policies after 1985, according to testimony quoted in a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision against Goodyear Canada Inc., which had wanted carriers who wrote occurrence-based liability policies between 1969 and 1980 to defend Goodyear in the U.S. against lawsuits arising from asbestos-related illnesses occurring after 1985.

In addition to the asbestos remediation protocol, RCOC is also working on a project that aims to examine how insurance carriers are using the Xactimate software to calculate the costs of restoration projects.

RCOC has already done its own study on data generated by Xactimate for 18 different items used in restoration projects and compared that data to the costs RCOC found itself.

Xactimate’s developers, Orem, Utah-based Xactware Solutions Inc., says it researches structural repair and cleaning costs based on actual prices and completed bids in 470 different geographic regions.

RCOC has commissioned Deloitte Canada to do a more detailed study on Xactimate, which will examine up to 75 different product samples used in estimating restoration project costs in four different regions in Canada.