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April 23, 2019

Could Your Construction Project Create an Environmental Hazard?

A pipe breaks. A load spills. Something gets left behind. When you’re managing a construction project, a lot of things can go wrong, sometimes with disastrous effects on the environment. Because lawsuits and cleanup costs can be extremely expensive, it’s important to pay attention to your construction project’s environmental exposures.

Accidents Happen

Accidents can happen in any line of work, but in construction, they tend to be big. It’s bad when a pipe filled with water breaks, but it’s even worse when a pipe or hose containing toxic materials breaks. And while no crash a good, a crash involving a vehicle transporting dangerous substances is a hundred times worse.

Some accidents are caused by human error, but others are triggered by natural events like earthquakes and storms. After Hurricane Harvey flooded Texas, explosions occurred at the Arkema chemical company. According to ABC News, the company is facing indictment for failing to take precautions to prevent the disaster.    

Improper Disposal or Storage

Construction projects sometimes require the use of hazardous materials, but how these materials are stored and disposed of can be a problem. If toxic materials are allowed to pollute the environment, the construction company can be held liable for the resulting damage.

The materials in question don’t have to be as extreme as mercury or lead, either. According to the Chicago Tribute, constructions workers were caught dumping dirty water into the Chicago River. Four construction companies are being sued over the violation of pollution laws. And according to MassLive, another construction company had to pay $100,000 after it was found to be stockpiling gravel where it could wash into a protected waterway.

Mold Contamination

Environmental exposure isn’t always about the surrounding area; sometimes it’s about the building itself. Construction defects can cause water problems, and that can result in mold. If mold contaminates a new building, the construction company could be held liable.

According to Kansas City Star, a construction company was sued for construction defects in a building supposed to house University of Missouri-Kansas City students. The alleged problems include pipe failures, leaks, mold and sagging floors.

Managing Your Risks

Construction companies must take proactive steps to limit their environmental exposures.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency provides a guide to developing an Environmental Management System, designed specifically for small- and medium-sized organizations. It covers 10 essential steps.

Being aware of possible exposures and adhering to regulations is essential. However, some risk always remains. For this reason, construction companies should also carry insurance coverage to protect themselves from environmental risks.

Have questions? Heffernan Insurance Brokers’ Construction Insurance Team Can Help. Contact us to learn more.




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