Sponsored: Liberty Mutual Insurance

From Drones to Defects: Planning for Construction’s Top Challenges

Construction buyers must be more vigilant about protecting projects before breaking ground.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 6 min read

The construction industry is firing on all cylinders. New projects spring up every day, but not all go according to plan.

Three out of every four construction projects fail to finish on time. Every party involved – owners, designers, contractors and subcontractors – expects perfection, with the final product delivered on schedule and on budget. Those expectations leave little room for uncertainty, so even a small hiccup can have ripple effects that disrupt a project for everyone.

As outlined in a recent report by McGraw Hill Construction “a lack of thoroughness of preconstruction planning, estimating and scheduling” is a leading cause of uncertainty.1

“There’s often a big disconnect on the front end of project planning,” said Doug Cauti, Senior Vice President, National Insurance, Chief Underwriting Officer, Construction, Liberty Mutual.

Proactive risk mitigation is also important to manage emerging challenges facing the construction industry ‒ drone regulations are evolving, commercial auto losses are rising, and so is uncertainty about which party might be held responsible for a construction defect. Without the proper planning, these issues can easily be overlooked and result in major losses and project disruption.

Liberty Mutual’s Doug Cauti discusses key challenges facing the construction market.

“Key risk management strategies have to be aligned among all parties from the beginning to minimize these uncertainties.”

Before construction begins, there are actions that project owners, designers and contractors can take to address these challenges and better protect their projects and businesses:

Drone Dangers

Drones can be useful tools on construction sites, providing an extra set of “eyes” for large commercial projects or tall buildings. They provide a real time aerial glimpse of works in progress, giving supervisors an added perspective to spot potential flaws, assess safety hazards, and check on workers. But many challenges remain in the safe — and legal — operation of drones.

Liberty Mutual’s interactive infographic highlights risks related to managing drones at construction sites, and also includes a pre-planning drone use guide and a pre-flight checklist that includes making sure to review the latest drone regulations.

How construction buyers can manage the insurance implications of using drones in their operations.

General contractors and project owners need to stay up to speed on FAA regulations, which changed in August, 2016.

“For one thing, operators need to have the drone in sight at all times,” Cauti said.

“And you need to make sure any operators are appropriately licensed and trained, that the drones are regularly maintained, and that the machines don’t impede on others’ safety and privacy.”

Clear flight paths and work zone boundaries can minimize the risk of a drone striking another property, or worse, a person. Operators should also know how to conduct an emergency landing if the drone suddenly loses power. It’s also important to consider how you are going to manage and use drone footage. Advertising liability can be a concern if third party images are captured and released. Know who is in charge of the data collected, who has access to it, and how you are going to protect it.

“If the contractor owns the drone, it takes on more liability. The contractor should review its insurance policies to make sure the coverage will respond to that risk,” Cauti said.

SponsoredContent_LM“As an insurance carrier, we may have a role to play in those proactive discussions. We are uniquely positioned to help project stakeholders see their risks and work to minimize them.”

— Doug Cauti, Senior Vice President, National Insurance, Chief Underwriting Officer, Construction, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Contractors and project owners can protect themselves through enhancements to their commercial general liability policies or through separate aviation policies, he said.

If a general contractor leases a drone through a third party, “they bear the responsibility of making sure the vendor is fully insured,” Cauti said. Vendors should have “non-owned” aviation coverage with limits suitable to handle the size of the risk.

Fleet Safety

Commercial auto losses challenge many business sectors, and construction is no exception.

More vehicles on the road and more miles driven, combined with fewer experienced commercial drivers, are driving up the frequency of accidents. On construction sites in particular, congestion created by closed roads, piles of materials and roving heavy machinery may lead to work zone accidents. Rising medical costs and repair and replacement costs of high-tech vehicles increase claim severity.

“I don’t see this trend reversing any time soon,” Cauti said.

Mitigating commercial auto losses begins with driver hiring practices.

“Pay attention to who you put behind the wheel,” Cauti said.

“Motor vehicle reports (MVRs) and driving history can alert employers to previous accidents or tickets. But there also needs to be regular communication with the drivers you do hire, and clear protocols in place that define expectations of how the job should be performed,” he added.

Ways construction buyers can manage rising commercial auto loss costs and better protect their fleets and employees.

Those protocols include requiring the use of seat belts, prohibiting cell phone use while behind the wheel, mandating scheduled breaks, outlining maintenance procedures, defining if company vehicles can be used for personal use, and establishing crash report procedures that delineate who to contact and what information to collect in the event of an accident.

Contractors can also monitor fleet performance through telematics systems. These on-board systems can track unsafe driving behaviors like hard braking, sharp turns, and speeding. But the data is only as good as the person analyzing it. Contractors and project owners should partner with an insurer who can use fleet telematics data effectively to pinpoint common causes of accidents and recommend specific risk mitigation strategies.

Liberty Mutual’s Managing Vital Driving Performance is one tool that leverages insureds existing telematics data to identify unsafe driving behaviors and accident patterns.

“Our risk control consultants can drill deeper into the data and interview drivers to identify patterns and find out the root causes of bad driving behaviors in the first place,” Cauti said.

For example, a post-accident interview with a driver could reveal that he had been skipping breaks and spending too many hours on the road, leading to fatigue and inattentive driving.

Identifying those connections enables consultants to make specific risk mitigation recommendations, such as adjusting drivers’ schedules and workloads to reduce overtime, or adjusting dispatch protocols so employers can ensure drivers aren’t working too many shifts in a short period of time.

Construction Defects

Another uncertainty project owners, designers and contractors have to face is how insurance coverage will apply should a project end up in a dispute. “The struggle is around the definition of ‘faulty workmanship’ and who is responsible for the defect. Is it in the design or the build?” Cauti said.

“There can be a lot of finger pointing involved. This reinforces the need for contractors to have a systematic quality assurance (QA) program that adheres to best practices, and for every party to have a role in it.”

Elements of a QA program could include testing of construction materials, conducting regular walk-throughs and obtaining approvals from the owner at key phases, and final sign-off by the owner at the project’s completion.

How construction defects and the current legal climate are affecting projects.

Construction defect claims can affect a business’s reputation, profits, and ability to maintain insurance coverage. That’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about avoiding construction defects, whether you’re a designer, developer, owner or general contractor.

Ultimately, though, these risks should be addressed before ground is broken. Discussing these challenges and collaborating on loss prevention strategies up front reduces the likelihood that any “hiccups” will throw off project timelines or increase costs for the various stakeholders.

Pre-planning discussions also offer the opportunity for these parties to take advantage of carrier partners’ risk control services.

“As an insurance carrier, we may have a role to play in those proactive discussions,” Cauti said.

“We are uniquely positioned to help project stakeholders see their risks and work to minimize them.”

To learn more about Liberty Mutual’s solutions for the construction industry, visit https://business.libertymutualgroup.com/business-insurance/industries/construction-insurance-coverage.

[1] Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction SmartMarket Report



This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

Liberty Mutual Insurance offers a wide range of insurance products and services, including general liability, property, commercial automobile, excess casualty and workers compensation.

More from Risk & Insurance

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Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out Water.org for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]