Many school administrators know that educational facilities contain countless risks and liabilities that require insurance coverage. But one hazard that many fail to recognize is pollution. Because of the unique environment of a school and the greater vulnerability that children have to pollutants, educational facilities actually face one of the largest pollution risks of any industry. Plus, many administrators don’t realize that their standard insurance coverage expressly excludes pollution-related claims. Unless organizations have a separate pollution policy, they are likely completely exposed to this risk.
What Constitutes “Pollution?”
The way insurance companies classify pollution is often different from a layperson’s definition, and schools have many potential pollution sources. Pollution is often loosely defined for insurance purposes as any type of substance that may cause an adverse reaction to an individual, which means that many incidents you may think are covered under a general liability or property policy are actually excluded as pollution incidents. Here are just some of the possible pollution sources in a school:
- Fumes from fresh paint, new carpeting, cleaning chemicals or pesticides
- Caulk containing harmful particles
- Faulty HVAC or ventilation systems
- Mold conditions
- Improperly stored or disposed of chemicals (art or science classrooms)
- Drinking water contaminated by lead, sidewalk salt or other chemicals
- Polluted air from nearby building or car emissions
The first danger of a pollution incident is extensive bodily injury, which can occur not just to the students, but also to teachers, staff, visitors and others in the surrounding area. These costs alone can be very high, plus your organization would also be responsible for legal fees and cleanup costs. Good pollution liability coverage can not only cover those costs, but also offer needed resources to handle the aftermath of such an incident. Pollution coverage may not seem necessary, especially if absent any prior incidents, but the cost of not procuring this coverage could be devastating.
Considerations When Buying Coverage
It is important to identify as many potential pollution sources as possible within a given facility to ensure that your policy covers as much as possible. For instance, some policies will not cover retroactive or preexisting pollution conditions. Also, many pollution policies have exclusions that should be noted before purchasing. In addition, consider purchasing an umbrella policy to help cover any exclusions or catastrophic claims that surpass the limits of any existing pollution policy. When doing so (or when evaluating your current umbrella coverage), be sure to watch out for any pollution exclusions tied to the umbrella policy as well.
Risk Management Techniques
And of course, whether your team has purchased pollution coverage or not, a few risk management techniques go a long way towards preventing or mitigating future losses:
- Develop, maintain and train staff on standard procedures for storing, handling and disposing of chemicals, pesticides and other hazardous materials.
- Have your buildings regularly inspected and repaired, including HVAC systems, ventilation, faucets and pipes.
- Use minimal amounts of fertilizer when possible.
- Keep lockers and buildings clean and dry to avoid attracting pests.
- Use sand on slippery surfaces instead of salt.
- Keep the ground free of litter.
- Use safer alternatives to hazardous materials when possible.
- Ensure that bus companies under contract with your facility install appropriate filtering devices on tailpipes to avoid fume leaks into the interior of the bus.
- When planning new construction, take distance from industrial buildings and highways into consideration.
In sum, when it comes to managing pollution liability, recognize the above risks, but your best bet is to work with an expert in the industry who can help you tailor a pollution risk management program to fit your school’s unique needs. Contact W.J. Alexander & Associates today for more information about protecting your facility against pollution.
Image courtesy of the Huffington Post