Why Painting Contractors Need Pollution Liability Insurance

Author, Casey Craig, Account Executive, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

At first glance, most painting contractors don’t think they need pollution coverage. One might think that if they're not pouring sludge into a lake or toxic gasses into the atmosphere, then it wouldn’t apply to their company. Everyone sees the oil spills and thinks that this is what pollution coverage is for, but how does it apply to your smaller business? How can one event jeopardize your company’s success?

Several paint cans with paint dripping down sides

In reality, pollution coverage is a must have policy for all painting contractors. This is how your business could be at risk.

First, let's determine what is a pollutant. A pollutant is defined as “the discharge, dispersal, release or escape of any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including, but not limited to, smoke, vapors, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, toxic chemicals, medical waste and waste materials into or upon land, or any structure on land, the atmosphere or any watercourse or body of water, including groundwater, provided such conditions are not naturally present in the environment in the amounts or concentrations discovered.” It is shocking how often a painting contractor is exposed to mold, asbestos, bacteria, or paint fumes.

What does Contractors Pollution Liability Insurance (CPL) really cover? CPL is a contractor-based policy, offered on a claims-made or occurrence basis, that provides third-party coverage for bodily injury, property damage, defense, and cleanup as a result of pollution conditions (sudden/accidental and gradual) arising from contracting operations performed by or on behalf of the contractor.

There are countless stories of something unforeseen being the cause of a pollution claim. Here are just a couple examples that could apply to your company.

A contractor had painted a nursing home and was sued by the residents. They alleged that the fumes weren’t ventilated properly. That claim alone was over $200,000.

A painter was removing lead paint from a bridge and some flakes fell into the river below. The damages exceeded $500,000.

A pollution claim could arise from site runoff after it rains, or accidentally drilling into a water pipe in the wall that produces leakage that leads to mold exposure. While transporting paint to a jobsite, the driver could get into an accident and the paint spills out and contaminates a water source adjacent to the road.

Most businesses look at pollution risk as something that doesn’t apply to them. Obviously, they aren’t planning on releasing pollutants like bacteria, mold, or fumes while on a jobsite. But, all it takes is one claim that could cost your company. Investigation costs, medical expenses, lawsuits, cleaning up of the area properly, not to mention how important your reputation is to your success, any one of these factors could be enough to bring your business to an end. 

Some contractors believe all third-party problems are covered by their general liability policy; however, most general liability policies will contain a pollution exclusion which doesn’t cover any property damage or bodily injury that comes from the result of a pollution event. Your general liability policy will not cover the cost of clean-up, either. It is easy to see how this could become a costly event, very quickly.

It is very clear to see the dangers that surround your business. Now that you know what they are, protect your business with CPL insurance. Contact me at (619)438-6900 or email me at ccraig@ranchomesa.com with any further questions. Let’s make sure you are properly prepared to protect your company’s future.