Pollution Exposures for Maintenance & Janitorial Companies

Maintenance and janitorial companies face a number of potential pollution issues due to the products they use and the activities performed on a daily basis. There have been several news stories recently about building evacuations resulting from workers inadvertently mixing chemicals and the improper handling of mold and other contaminants.

Environmental insurance coverages are designed to respond to the environmental exposures that may not otherwise be covered by traditional policies. These exposures may include:


The use (and misuse) of cleaning chemicals

Solvents, ammonia, and other cleansers are used by custodial staff for cleaning and maintaining a property. The use of these chemicals, or inadvertently mixing them, can be hazardous to people and cause indoor air quality issues within the building if they are spilled or used improperly. Cleaning chemicals could also be released into drains. Over time, they may impact soil or groundwater in the vicinity of the property.

The improper upkeep of maintenance systems

Poorly maintained ventilation systems or water intrusion may lead to mold or microbial matter, causing unhealthy indoor air quality. This could result in allergic reactions, infectious diseases, or breathing issues. Older buildings are particularly susceptible to these problems as they may not have mechanical ventilation systems. Other upkeep concerns may include: groundskeeping/landscaping chemical run-off, carbon monoxide from boiler rooms, furnaces, or water heaters, and storage tanks on the property.

Disturbing or exacerbating existing pollutants

When a contractor or janitor works at a site, they run the risk of uncovering existing pollution problems. This can happen in many ways, including cleaning or removing something containing lead, asbestos, or another contaminant. While it would seem that housekeeping and maintenance staff should not be held responsible for this, under certain Federal and State laws, they can be.

The operations of subcontractors for which the maintenance/janitorial contractor is responsible

Often, maintenance staff will hire subcontractors to perform system cleaning, housekeeping, etc. Obviously the contractor will require them to carry their own insurance, and name the contractor as an additional inured. What often happens, however, is the sub will not carry adequate environmental coverage. If they cause a pollution condition, and their coverage is inadequate, the maintenance contractor may be in a position of having to defend themselves against claims relating to work for which they were responsible.

Over the road pollution

Many maintenance contractors and janitorial workers transport cleaning materials over the road, along with the required fuel and service materials to keep these vehicles running. An accident on the highway may lead to expensive clean up and third party losses with limited protection from the contractor’s auto policy.

Maintenance and janitorial business owned premises exposures

Most maintenance/janitorial contractors have a business location used to store and maintain their cleaning and maintenance equipment. These facilities can range from a simple storage location, to a large property with vehicles, storage tanks, etc. Any property where equipment is stored runs the risk of being contaminated from spills, rain runoff, and other exposures. Losses from this type of exposure can include cost of cleanup, diminution of value, and third party bodily injury.

Recent News Stories Involving Janitorial and Maintenance Companies

Janitor mixing chemicals creates ‘chemical cloud,’ causing Rock County Courthouse to evacuate, close
A chemical cloud formed while a janitor was preparing water treatment products at the Rock County Courthouse on Friday morning, leading to an evacuation, officials said.

Maintenance Negligence caused a Legionnaires’ outbreak at Atlanta hotel, lawsuit says
A lawsuit filed Monday alleges “negligence in the operation and maintenance of the water systems” caused a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at a downtown Atlanta hotel that killed one person and potentially sickened dozens.

At least 8 taken to hospital following chemical spill at Lincoln Tech
The spill appeared to involve cleaning supplies used by the janitorial staff, Nashville Fire Department spokesperson, Joseph Pleasant told News 2. He did not disclose what chemicals were believed to be involved.

Mold, temporary maintenance fixes cause tenant to move out of Antioch apartment; seek legal action
A warning from an Antioch woman claiming issues with mold in her apartment caused her to move — even after temporary fixes by maintenance.

Two Cleaning Employees Hospitalized After Improper Chemical Use
The importance of proper chemical handling was unfortunately highlighted by a recent event in which two cleaning employees were hospitalized following a spill.

While the coverages we offer are designed to address these general issues, we make no guarantee or warranty that any individual policy we offer will respond to all issues as described herein. Please refer to the actual policy wording in each offered form to determine coverage applicability and acceptability. In the event you apply for coverage and we offer terms, please review those terms carefully to determine if all the exposures are being addressed. In some instances, more than one policy or type of coverage may be necessary.

For more information on maintenance and janitorial companies, please contact us.