On the Road with USGlass

Insuring Success

What’s the biggest factor affecting insurance rates for glazing contractors these days? Is it all the litigation by condo boards about leaky windows? Their financial health? Nope. The answer may surprise you.

Auto-related losses are among the most significant losses, says Rick Keegan, president of construction losses for Travelers Insurance in a recent issue of National Underwriter magazine. Keegan goes on to say that distracted driving is one of the biggest factors in such accidents nowadays, as a result of employees talking or texting on their cell phones while they drive.

Liability for such communications is murky, too. By now, most companies have a policy against employee texting while driving company vehicles. But what are the consequences if the employee does not follow those rules? And what happens if the driver was in text communication at the time of the accident? Questions of liability in cases such as these are just beginning to make their way through the courts. Keegan suggests construction companies consider the installation of software that will disable phones from working while the car is in motion on company vehicles at the very least.

The construction insurance arena is also affected by a lack of skilled labor and an aging workforce. It shows in the insurance rates contract glaziers pay. An inexperienced workforce coupled with an aging workforce leads to more accidents and injuries. “Our statistics show that more than 50 percent of all construction workplace injuries occur within the first year of employment,” Keegan said, citing inexperience and lack familiarity with hazards as reasons for the concentration of claims.

And if it isn’t the new workers that increase insurance rates, it’s the older ones. People are working longer and that leads to longer post-injury recovery and disability periods and an increased likelihood that the employee will not return the work. So the severe shortage of workers our industry has brings ramifications for insuring the industry as well.

Though bodily injury remains the largest category of claims, contract glaziers are particularly vulnerable to property damage and construction defect claims. We’ve focused on such claims extensively in USGlass magazine, particularly around window systems and the proliferation of claims alleging leaks and defects.

Rightly or wrongly, if a litigious condo board, or any other customer for that matter, decides to sue, the effects will be felt for years to come and will influence the availability and cost of insurance. We’ve all seen inferior work out there for which the company responsible deserves to be held accountable but they are the exception rather than the rule. After all, any company is only as good as its worst employee on their worst day.

There is little we can control once thrown down the litigation rabbit hole. The point is to stay out of it all together.  Having a good program of training in place for new employees, having an ongoing and strong safety program and keeping phone use in autos from happening are relatively easy to accomplish. Savvy companies with low insurance rates know this and do.