Dave Dybdahl of ARMR Network answers three questions related to liability coverage and cleaning during the coronavirus pandemic: 

  1. What is the #1 question you are getting from your restoration clients?
  2. What are some of the “must haves” for liability insurance if you’re doing coronavirus cleaning?
  3. What are some helpful documents out there for contractors right now? (This is obviously the place to mention the RIA/IICRC doc)

Diving deeper into the discussion, here are some risk management tips for restorers going out in the field to conduct virus decontamination work:

  1. Job #1: Protect the workers. If your employees have not been trained on personal protection equipment, if your firm does not have the equipment and experience working with bio-hazards, this is not place for on the job training.
  2. Follow the guidance and advice offered in the new RIA and IICRC Preliminary Report for Restoration Contractors Assisting Clients With COVID-19 Concerns. This document was produced s specifically to help contractors mitigate risk. DOWNLOAD HERE.
  3. Get your insurance coverage in order. At a minimum, contractors should review their general liability, contractor’s pollution liability, professional liability, and workers’ compensation policies with an insurance agent or broker with specialized knowledge or access to specialized knowledge in restoration contracting and bio hazards. There is no training available for insurance agents on the specialized needs of restoration contractors. Which explains why more than 90% of restores are inadequately insured today, not just on biohazard work. If you do not have a Contractors Environmental or Contractors Pollution Policy with its own insuring agreement section, stop all biohazard jobs. Job site coverage extensions on the General Liability policy do not fulfill this requirement.

Most of the liability insurance policies sold to restorers do not work very well if at all for virus decon work.

Here are the red flag things to look for in insurance policies:

  • If there is a virus, microbial matter, or communicable disease exclusion on one of the policies, do not perform virus decon or cat 3 water work. Do not work in health care settings. Policies without those exclusions are readily available.
  • If your rating pages for the premium charged show you classified as  “janitorial”, be concerned that a janitor doing virus decon work in personal protective gear could be a material change in the risk that the underwriter agreed to cover at the beginning of the policy term. To avoid claims problems over a undisclosed “material change in the risk”, all you have to do is make sure all your insurance underwriters know that you are performing virus decon jobs. Some underwriters who have been kidding themselves (and their bosses) that restoration contracts are just glorified janitors will be confronted with the reality that restorers need to deal with Category 3 water and other biological contaminants  all the time. If a underwriters decides to cut and run from biohazard work to protect their job security, its better to know that insurance company wants nothing to do with biohazard work before a claims adjuster is denying you coverage for on claim over a “undisclosed material change in the risk”. Insurance companies do that, its kind of the ultimate exclusion.

Here are the features of the insurance coverage you need for biohazard work:

  • The CPL and professional liability coverage should specifically reference fungi/bacteria/virus or microbial matter or microbial substance as a covered “pollutant”.
  • There should be a reference to how the clean up cost coverage under the policy is triggered that is not dependent upon environmental laws, because there are no environmental laws for bio hazards including virus.
  • Ideally the coverage in the insurance policy is in lockstep to the industry standards you use to do your work.  

With trained personnel following the new guidance in the RIA/IICRC Report, and insurance coverage specifically adopted to biohazard work restorers, restorers will play a big part in bringing us all back to some normalcy.