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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

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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

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Masters of Risk

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]