As a general contractor, you need to be aware of your projects’ environmental risk, because you have a responsibility to your employees, the public and the community at large. Once you recognize the environmental impact of your work, you will be able to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from costly claims.
Types of Environmental Risk
Today, contractors must consider the risk factors of every project. Even routine activities have the potential to cause costly environmental damage, like contaminated soil. For example, a general contractor could unknowingly spread petroleum-contaminated soil across a project site.
Environmental risks are present in many types of construction projects. They can occur at various phases of the project life cycle.
Common types of issues include:
- Toxic vapors
- Raw sewage
- Lead poisoning
- HVAC construction or maintenance errors
Minimizing Environmental Impact in the Construction Process
Now more than ever before, the environment is a primary concern. With heightened public awareness and stronger government regulations, contractors need to have environmental risk management strategies in place. These precautions will not only help the planet thrive, but can also help your company avoid costly claims.
The pre-construction phase is the ideal time to identify any risk factors associated with your upcoming project. Start by examining the job site to identify pre-existing conditions, which could affect project delivery. You may run into problems if the site presents human health or natural resource risks, like underground storage tanks or pipelines.
Most of a project’s negative environmental effects happen during the construction phase. Hopefully, your due diligence in the pre-construction phase will prevent any major surprises, like residual or surface contamination. You should always be aware of potential issues, like fumes, emissions and chemical spills. During construction, general contractors also must be careful not to exacerbate any pre-existing contamination.
Environmental risks can be both sudden and gradual, which means they can occur in the post-construction phase, too. For example, a building project could have construction defects that pose an environmental issue. Or, the operations and maintenance of a new structure could be slowly having a negative effect on the planet. All of these problems could become a general contractor’s responsibility. By recognizing critical project issues and risk factors, it’s possible to arrive at a solution that will mitigate present and future environmental risks.
Environmental issues are not reserved for only high-risk projects. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until a small issue becomes a more costly problem.