By Chad Engle, Loss Prevention and Safety Manager
A loss prevention program is a strategy that includes steps, practices, and procedures that a county uses to reduce the risk of accidents and claims. Property maintenance is a critical part of a loss prevention program. NIRMA provides coverage for property and buildings along all points in the age spectrum, most buildings are older with many considered historic. Unfortunately, property conditions do not improve with age.
To help our members maintain their properties NIRMA has developed a Property/Building Inspection Checklist. Regular documented inspections will identify maintenance issues that if rectified will prevent costly property, liability, or workers’ compensation claims. For example, a drain plugged with debris could result in a flooded basement or a slip-and-fall injury to an employee or customer.
At a minimum, semi-annual documented property inspections should be conducted. Roof inspections are an excellent place to start. The roof is a building’s first line of defense against rain and water damage. Pay particular attention to the perimeter areas of the roof and flashings, where the roof and the walls meet. A spring inspection will allow you to find and repair damage before the rainy season. A fall inspection will allow you to do the same, in preparation for winter snow that will accumulate and melt. NIRMA also recommends conducting roof inspections after any severe weather that may have caused damage. Check all items that are anchored to the roof to ensure they will stay fastened during windy weather. Consider starting the inspection with the interior. Checking the ceilings and walls for signs of water damage will give you a preliminary idea of where you may have issues with the roof.
An exterior building walk-around inspection will identify maintenance issues and possible premises liability issues. I normally start by walking the sidewalks and looking for uneven concrete and places where the ground is not flush with the walking surface. Grind down heaving concrete and backfill low spots along walking surfaces to reduce the risk of trip and falls. Inspect the grounds for holes and other trip hazards and repair as necessary.
Now shift your focus to the building. Start at the main entrance and work all the way around ending where you started. Look first at the ground level, then work your way up the side of the building looking for loose or missing siding, broken windows, cracking masonry, or anything that would create an entry point for moisture or pests. Stop at each entrance and ensure stairs and railings are in working order, ADA automatic doors are functioning correctly, and any other hazards are repaired.
Property claims are handled on an “occurrence” basis, which means that each separate occurrence is subject to its own deductible. When properties are not maintained and a claim is filed it becomes very difficult to determine what is “sudden and accidental” damage that is covered, and what has occurred over time and may not be covered or possibly subject to multiple deductibles. For example, if you lose one shingle from the roof each storm and wait until there are multiple shingles missing to submit a claim, each shingle is a separate occurrence and subject to its own deductible.
The inspection process not only reduces the chance of costly property claims, but it creates the documentation we need to defend our members against premises liability claims. Retaining the completed inspection checklists, and documenting work in progress as well as completed repairs puts our members in a much more defensible position. NIRMA’s Property/Building Inspection Checklist can be found on our website at https://nirma.info. Select Inspection Forms and Checklists under the Resources tab.