As a broker exclusively dedicated to providing insurance and risk management solutions to design professionals, I can tell you that there are certain steps design firms can and should take to mitigate their exposures to costly claims and client disputes. One specific area we addressed at our most recent Willis A&E monthly risk management webinar was on construction administration.
Construction administration is a crucial element in the designer’s professional service for reducing exposure to claims. Of particular note are the issues of pre-planning before visiting the site, keeping your activities within the stated scope of services, and the effective use of a well-drafted site observation report to reduce the likelihood of claims against the design professional.
Pre-planning before attending on the jobsite observation is essential to ensure that the designer observes the site based on where the progress should be as determined by the construction schedule, as opposed to where it actually is. Action and follow-up items should also be listed to ensure they are not missed, since attendance at a jobsite can become a series of distractions.
Scope of Services
Anyone attending the site on behalf of the design firm should understand the scope of services as detailed in the contract. It should be clearly stated in every contract—and understood by your employees—that the design professional is not responsible for the means, methods, sequencing, installation, techniques or scheduling of the work. Far too often firms will negotiate their contracts and scope of services in an “ivory tower” and fail to communicate critical information specific to the contract and scope of services to those members on the firm actually doing the work out on the site.
Keep in mind that regardless of what you have in your contract, your staff’s conduct on the site can create exposures over and above the standard of care, subjecting you to potentially uninsurable risks including OSHA fines.
Also be sure to educate your staff on responsible documentation practices and to take special care when it comes to drafting of field notes, minutes—and emails—pertaining to construction administration and site safety.
The site report can be a valuable tool in reducing the likelihood of claims and be a method in which the designer can maintain some control of the site by objectively documenting the progress of the work in a verifiable manner. A well-drafted site report:
- Reaffirms that the designer is not responsible job site safety
- Documents the progress of the work in a manner where contractor delays are reported to the contractor and the owner early on in the life of the project.
By proper planning, adherence to the scope of services, and timely preparation and presentation of a well-crafted site report, design professionals can reduce the chances of claims being presented against them, or reduce the potential severity of a claim that is asserted.
As with all risk management programs instituted by the design professional, your efforts are only as effective as your ability to communicate and document effectively with the other parties involved in the project.
To request a copy of the power point or live recording of the Willis A&E ‘CYA with CA’ email us at WillisAE@Willis.com.