Geo Week News

July 23, 2013

Memo to insurance market: please meet laser scanning

Insurance. We all need it. We all have it. Yet, as robust as the insurance market may be, it still has no idea how to classify what we do in the scanning business. It’s obvious when you try to insure your equipment or purchase an Errors & Omissions policy, and it’s especially obvious if you ever have to make a claim.

While there are many types of insurance and many insurance requirements when operating a company, I find the subject to be especially frustrating when I am presented with requirements for site access in many facilities. The conversation typically goes something like this: “We require all engineering and construction firms to carry a $5 million policy for access, plus a $1 million policy if you will be bringing a vehicle inside the gate, additionally, we will need a waiver of subrogation …” Etc., etc., for about three pages.

Here is the deal. I’m not engineering anything. I’m not performing any demolition or constructing anything. I’m measuring things. In fact, I’m not even touching the things that I measure. I’m shining a light on them, and sometimes I photograph them (gasp!). Other than an odd assortment of Allen wrenches and a hammer, I don’t even have any tools with me!

The problem seems to be the institutional lack of checkboxes. In a world full of subcontractors, the insurance requirements sheet (or website) only has checkboxes for the prime. They may delineate between work in the open or in a confined space, but not between non-contact measuring and pipe fitting. Occasionally, you can find someone in the contracting process that will listen, and I encourage you all to try and explain the situation each time it arises.

Typically, I’ll call (not email) the person that requested the absurdly high insurance requirements. Nine out of ten times they have no idea who I am or what I do. They just look at who the prime contractor is that is bringing me in and forward the same documents to me that they sent to them. Often, a clear explanation of what I will actually be doing results in a drastic reduction in the insurance requirements. But, not always.

Again, it’s the checkbox thing. I’ve actually had conversations where they read a list of four or five descriptions to me and say, “Pick the one closest to what you do. That will decide what your insurance requirements are to be.” My typical response is, “Which one did the guy who stocks your vending machines choose?” They like that a lot.

The sad fact is that all this lack of critical thinking does is drive up the cost for everyone involved. Forcing me to carry more insurance doesn’t make the prime or the facility owners more money. It sure doesn’t help me to be more profitable. We all simply pass the cost along and the only profits to be had are for the company issuing the insurance policy.

That is why calling sometimes works. If you can find someone that is actually interested in the well-being of their company, and not just in covering their own behind, you may be able to find a way around this wasteful use of resources.

Please, do not misunderstand. I think some level of insurance is not only prudent but absolutely necessary. I just think that it should be, in some way, tied to the level of risk that you introduce to the site. However, until they find some more of those obviously endangered checkboxes, we will continue to charge more than necessary, so that a third party can continue to profit from our work.

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