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General Liability, Fleet Management and Workers Compensation: Major Construction Risks to Watch This Year

General liability, auto and workers' compensation claims will continue to challenge companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Gary Clevenger
January 18, 2022
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Equipment
Risk
Workforce
Business

The construction industry continues to navigate through the economic and operational impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. From increasing labor shortages to the fragility of the supply chain, construction-related challenges are becoming more frequent and more expensive than ever before. There are three key areas of emerging risks business leaders in the construction industry should have on their radar for 2022.

General Liability

Several interconnected risks, such as supply chain delays, inexperienced workers and an increased use of subcontractors, are at the forefront of general liability claims in the construction industry. Supply chain delays can result in the use of alternative materials, notably when projects are urgent in the case of a disruptive event. For example, the freeze in the southern part of the United States in 2021 showcased this disruption. Due to the inability to get materials commonly used for repairs because of delays in the supply chain, companies had to use replacement materials to fix damaged building structures. This example brings up a lot of unknowns concerning how long replacement materials will hold up, the final cost and meeting project deadlines.

At the same time, the construction industry is still grappling with labor shortages—only to find that the COVID-19 pandemic exasperated the shortage. According to the Home Builder Institute, the construction industry needs more than two million more workers over the next three years to keep up with booming demand for new houses amid the labor shortage. Companies are now in the position to put less-experienced workers on projects, often adding additional delays and complications. Subcontractors and supervision needs are also heightened as workdays are longer to keep projects moving. Different rules and regulations of subcontractors and potential injuries as a result of hiring inexperienced workers can all add extra liability for the insured. To better manage these general liability risks, employee training and tracking, digital resources—such as drones, AI and sensors—as well as workflow management practices should be implemented.

Auto

Bluetooth connections, self parking and motion-detecting cameras are some of the greatest innovations for the automotive industry, but an over-reliance on technology could be adding new distractions for drivers and increasing the risks for construction workers. Operating automobiles has many uncontrollable variables such as weather and fellow drivers, speeding and using cell phones while driving are not new concerns. Now, with new technologies built into cars, drivers may feel safer, provoking them to take a bit more risk while driving. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the idea of working on the go, and people are now using their cars as mobile offices, jeopardizing construction workers’ safety of getting from site to site and when physically working on roads. Cell phone blocking technology, geo-mapping to monitor vehicle usage, and limiting physical use of technology while driving can help manage risky driving behaviors.

Workers' Compensation

The construction industry did not shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the pace and sequence of jobs changed. Like other industries, the construction industry continued to be challenged by longer working hours in addition to having to implement new workflow processes and change work sequence as result of the pandemic. This put additional physical stress on workers, as many jobs originally completed by two people may now need to be completed by one person to maintain social distancing. Supply chain delays also cause a sequencing and re-sequencing of projects, as projects are delayed while waiting on needed parts. Restarting activities after an interruption has been known to increase stress on workers’ mindsets. These new risks can add pressure to workers in an already physically and mentally demanding industry. To help minimize the impact of these risks, employers can use technology in prefabrication, training and advancements in construction tools.

The construction industry will continue to be a fast-paced and high-risk industry. General liability auto, and workers' compensation claims will continue to challenge companies due to the complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Managing risks and paying close attention to emerging trends can help business leaders prepare for potential exposures. While disruptions in the supply chain and labor shortages are not projected to ease up anytime soon, companies should begin to plan and prepare to navigate the anticipated challenges in 2022.

by Gary Clevenger
Gary Clevenger, MS, CSP, RRE, is responsible for leading and advancing strategic initiatives for the segment business. Aligning risk control with enterprise partners to bring industry leading risk assessment and risk control service to segment business. CNA offers it policyholders CNA SORCE® On Demand, which provides instant access to a custom library of risk control sources and industry specific courses. 

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