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Like any residential or commercial structure, a sound business starts with a solid foundation. In the case of establishing a construction firm, a large network often serves as a key building material. Industry Trade Associations focus on providing this vital ingredient to success. Through joining, members get access to others in the business - entrepreneurs eager to share advice, services and tips based on personal experience.

Construction Trade Insurance

Construction firms often must brace for unexpected hitches when it comes to completing a project. A job's expedition can change with a few drops of rain or a stubborn piece of equipment.

Similarly, owners in the business face a truckload of insurance risks that can determine the fate of their entire operation. Historically, coverage focused on the obvious setbacks - an injured crew worker and property damage. But in today's lawsuit-happy marketplace, firms need more protection to ensure longevity.

Insurance companies offer a broad selection of plans designed to safeguard construction operations of all sizes.

Builders Risk Insurance

This type of policy, sometimes referred to as Course of Construction Insurance, covers against damage to a specific development and related building materials (Often defined as those pieces slated to become a permanent part of the structure). Builders Risk usually goes into effect from the start of work and continues right up to the project's completion. Coverage limits vary based on the overall cost of the project. Generally, these policies pay for damages up to the completed value of the structure. This excludes land worth. While some might confuse builders risk with property insurance, the two actually are quite different on paper. As where property insurance policies tend to only cover the owner and mortgage lender, builders risk is a shared plan. Specifically, it protects all involved in the development - the owner, architect, contractor, subcontractors and lenders. On average, builders risk covers against fire, vandalism, vehicles, aircraft, explosion, wind, theft, lightening, and hail. Still, a general Builders Risk policy does not cover damage to equipment or tools.

Property Insurance

According to insurance experts, this coverage has changed quite a bit during the past few decades as we've entered into the computer age. Database information, digital designs and much more can be hacked into with a few clicks of a mouse button. For this reason, insurance providers offer plans that place a value on intangibles like research, development information, etc. Premium terms and conditions most always vary depending on the property type and worth.

Contractors Equipment Floater Insurance

This insurance type covers mobile equipment that moves from one job site to the next on a regular basis. Equipment Floaters usually protect against fire, theft, vandalism, lightning, explosion, windstorm, earthquake, collapse of bridges, flood and collision.

Contractor Equipment Insurance

Many of the tools used in the construction industry come with a fairly steep price tag. It's not uncommon for a piece of machinery to cost upwards of several thousand dollars. Contractor Equipment Insurance covers damages against higher-end property. Items tend to include loaders, graders, bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, power shovels, backhoes, compressors and more. Under certain polices, the covered equipment can be owned, rented, leased or borrowed.

Workers Compensation Coverage

Workers compensation coverage is a must - literally and figuratively. In an industry where operating heavy machinery is all in a day's work, construction firms need to select a solid policy. More importantly, owners and managers should know exactly what such a policy provides. Some insurance firms offer extended benefits through there workers comp plans. Sometimes these include loss control services, risk management services, surety bonding, monitored claim handling, client education on how to avoid workers comp fraud and more.

Contractors Professional Liability Insurance

This coverage, also known as design-build errors and omissions, safeguards against expenses often accrued when defending design-related litigation. Many industry insiders urge general contractors to obtain some form of this coverage. After all, they usually are the "key players" plaintiffs want to pursue in structural design lawsuits. In other words, lawyers know general contractors likely can afford a heftier settlement than a single sub-contractor! Claims range anywhere from: The contractor partook in improper screening and hiring processes when selecting subcontractors - therefore resulting in flawed craftsmanship, to unapproved changes to the overall design at some point during the project. Clearly, these are issues the architect or structure designer could not control, resulting in the claim ending up at the general contractor's doorstep. Contractors Professional Liability Insurance tends to come in two forms: permanent policy and project-specific policy.

Contractors Pollution Liability Insurance

It's not uncommon for crews to rupture a sewer main or gas line while digging on a job site. Other than slowing down work and usually the flow of traffic, such an incident also can have costly environmental repercussions. Imagine paying the price for contaminated soil disposal or remedying an oil spill from an older piece of machinery.

Pollution claims are fairly common and can be extremely pricey to resolve and defend. Contractors Pollution Liability coverage provides insurance against just that: the financial loss and liability related to pollution from a covered project. These plans usually include coverage for third-party claims over related bodily harm and property damage. Moreover, they often cover all property damage and cleanup costs related to the environmental damage. Such policies tend to come in two forms: One or multi-year project terms.

Keyman Insurance

Smaller construction firms operating on the experience of a key person should definitely explore this insurance option. Keyman coverage compensates a business for financial losses stemming from the death or extended absence (injury/illness related) of a vital role player. It's important to note that Keyman Insurance does not pay for the actual losses related to a person's incapacity, but instead provides the business with a fixed monetary sum. The policy holder usually selects the amount of money to be paid to the business. This coverage is designed to allow employees, and the business as a whole, to continue to function for a period of time while addressing the absence.

Since there appears to be some similarities in the many construction insurance packages offered, it's always wise to seek out a knowledgeable agent before making any final decisions. Having too much or too little coverage can be a costly mistake.

Better Communications for the Project

Construction workers need to be ready to move from one job site to the next in a moment's notice. The old adage, "Go where the work is" holds true in this particular industry. In fact, a single firm might have several crews working at multiple locations. For this reason, keeping everyone on the same page sometimes presents a real predicament for managers and foremen. An increasing number of today's firms have stashed away their walkie talkies and other clunky communication devices, opting for more-advanced high-tech products. The result is a smoother operation and better productivity.

GPS Grade Control System

Improved communication starts with reducing confusion. In the past, if a machine operator needed a question answered or project specs; they might phone the main office or radio someone else on site. Today, however, global positioning system (GPS) technology allows workers to access vital data in mere seconds. Equipped with a small screen, GPS Grade Control Systems let those conducting earthmoving and fine grading view the design in the cab of the machine as they work. More advanced versions of these devices show in 3-D, comparing the blade position to a three-dimensional digital site plan. The device then signals the worker to raise or lower the blade based on the design requirements. Certain versions of GPS Grade Control Systems even let workers create flat, single and dual sloping planar designs (roads, highways, driveways) right at the job-site. More technical designs can be uploaded to the device after creation with a flash card.

By literally drawing out the plan for the machine operator, these systems decrease - if not eliminate altogether - time spent phoning the main office for related project information.

Fleet Tracking Systems

In the construction industry, a business is only as capable as its machinery. Using wireless communication devices to pin point the location and operation status of each machine can help increase productivity and diminish excess costs.

Fleet Tracking Systems, which pair the technology of global positioning systems with wireless communications, let construction firms keep a close eye on machinery and coordinate crews. Specifically, owners can use this service - in part with smart phones, laptops or any other portable devices with Internet access - to view the exact location of a vehicle, determine if the vehicle's ignition is currently running, locate travel direction, road speed and more. Some advanced fleet tracking software also sends automatic alerts and updates via email or mobile phone. This includes engine hour reports, special conditions alerts (temperature, oil pressure, etc.), stop and idle time reports, boundary alerts (if vehicle goes beyond allowed limits) and more.

In turn, more and more construction companies are using fleet tracking technology to help improve equipment utilization, combat theft, cut back on fuel usage, better predict maintenance and set up more practical field logistics.

Push To Talk (PTT) Cell Phones

In the past, construction workers often talked to each other over the interference and static of a two-way radio. With a pager hoisted to his front pant's pocket, yesterday's crew member had very little options in terms of job-site communication. However, today's major wireless providers cater to the industry with a number of construction-specific innovations. Cell phones equipped with the Push-To-Talk feature allow the user to talk to multiple workers (must also have PTT-enabled mobile) with a mere press of a button. Modeled after the walkie-talkie, the PTT phone is ideal for instant real-time communication and offers much improved reception compared to its less reliable predecessors.

With the steady rise of mobile phone usage at construction sites, wireless providers have embarked on a marketing campaign focused specifically on the development industry. First, they've created more durable phones able to withstand the wear and tear of inclement weather and heavy industrial work. To accompany these heavy-duty models, wireless providers offer a range of services for real-time data sharing. Certain cell plans allow the user to access the firm's information networks, work orders, as well as view and edit management calendars. Other capabilities include the ability to check inventory and send photos of site work for instant approvals.