Indoor Air Quality - Commercial Property Blog- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Mold Problems and Other Commercial Office Reopening Risks

As companies reopen offices or allow more employees in the office, building owners are making plans to draw employees back. As part of preparations, they must ensure their commercial property insurance coverage can meet the challenges.

Employees may be reluctant to return for several reasons:

  • They have concerns about catching COVID
  • They realize that work can be performed remotely thanks to such virtual tools
  • They developed new routines with family members and discovered a quality of life they may be reluctant to give up

When considering these arguments and concerns, what can organizations do to allay employees' fears? Read on for some options we at PHLY have seen companies pursuing and some important insurance considerations.

Risks and Rewards Organizations Should Consider Before Employees Return

Many companies are re-imagining office space for greater function, comfort, and work-life balance. New amenities and services are great, but the overall safety of the workplace must be considered when re-opening or renovating. Businesses still face environmental liability risks. And more risks may have developed during those months when no one was in the building.

The CDC recommends checking buildings that have been closed for a "prolonged period" for hazards including Legionella (the cause of Legionnaires' disease), mold, and lead and copper contamination from corroded plumbing.

Their recommendation also applies to building areas that may remain unused after employees return. Unused spaces offer perfect places for unmonitored damage to occur.

What are some other potential new risks?

  • Installing new drywall or removing walls to reconfigure workspace may expose asbestos, lead, or mold requiring remediation
  • Removing rodents and other pests may necessitate mitigating damage they've caused
  • Checking for damage from moisture (mold and mildew) and implementing controls to monitor or fix these exposures are crucial for safe occupancy

Companies should also ensure:

  • Ventilation systems in the facility operate properly. Review construction startup guidance when a building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC systems) have been shut down or on setback
  • Circulation of outdoor air is increased by opening windows and doors if possible and using fans

Building managers should routinely check for adequate ventilation and air distribution via HVAC systems. They must work to contain:

  • Indoor chemical contaminants

    Examples include asbestos, elements in some types of adhesives and carpeting, and cleaning agents containing volatile compounds or particulates.
  • Outdoor chemical contaminants

    Examples include motor vehicle exhaust and plumbing vents near exhausts and intake systems.
  • Biological contaminants

    Examples include bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses accumulating in air ducts, humidifiers, and drain pans.

Maintenance to Guard Against SBS and BRI

Today, businesses must consider IAQ and other factors contributing to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Building Related Illness (BRI).

  • Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) describes situations in which people experience health and comfort effects apparently linked to time spent within a building but with no specifically identifiable illness or cause.
  • Building-Related Illness (BRI) describes symptoms of diagnosable illness or exacerbation of an existing illness, such as allergies or asthma, directly attributed to airborne building contaminants.

While BRI can be temporary, some buildings have long-term problems resulting from deficient or non-existent operational and maintenance procedures, building design, or occupant activities. Companies can identify and address many causes of BRI during re-occupancy planning.

Pollution Conditions Need Urgent Attention

BRI can be alleged as a pollution condition. Organizations need to know the risk of finding ongoing pollution conditions as they renovate.

Environmental liability coverage, such as PHLY's Premises Environmental Coverage, is a type of commercial property insurance that gives organizations critical protection from claims and losses arising from such sources as:

  • Remediation (Cleanup Costs)
  • Bodily Injury
  • Property Damage
  • Legal Expenses and Defense Costs

This pollution insurance, in conjunction with PHLY's other risk management protocols and procedures for mitigating IAQ concerns, can help property owners and operators manage IAQ liabilities. PHLY agents and policyholders can access e-Trainings on environmental issues in the Risk Management Services section of MyPHLY.

The PHLY Difference: Unmatched Expertise and Experience

PHLY's Premises Environmental Coverage/Commercial Property Insurance provides comprehensive coverage, including:

  • Remediation Coverage on and off-site (discovery and third-party triggers)
  • Third-Party Bodily Injury and Property Damage
  • Business Interruption coverage and Underground Storage Tanks coverage
  • Indoor Air Quality protection including mold, Legionella, asbestos, and lead paint
  • Defense expense

PHLY offers unmatched underwriting expertise, delivered by a team with considerable combined experience in engineering, underwriting, brokering, and client service.

Your PHLY team understands the nuances of property pollution insurance and will carefully put together the coverage elements needed.

When bringing employees back to work, be sure PHLY is part of the planning to help protect policyholders from unexpected risk exposures. Organizations will feel less stress knowing PHLY has their back if they discover environmental damages in their buildings.

Talk to your PHLY Rep about environmental liability coverage for indoor air quality today.

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