In a still struggling economy, eldercare is one of the few growth industries in the United States and is expected to continue expanding. As you likely realize, eldercare is a very unique industry as well, and faces its own distinct risks and liabilities. Because it is such a prominent industry, it is more important than ever for facilities to ensure they are maintaining a safe environment and protecting their occupants. One risk that is often overlooked is that of pollution, even though eldercare facilities face some of the most dangerous pollution risks of any industry. There are many pollution hazards that, though normally harmless to the general population, can pose serious health threats for the elderly.

Pollution is generally seen as a risk mostly for industrial and manufacturing companies. However, eldercare facilities face a serious pollution risk as well, and their liability is even greater if they lack the type of pollution risk management programs that manufacturing firms typically have in place.

The main reason for the pollution hazard is because the occupants of eldercare facilities are much more fragile than the general population, and more susceptible to serious illness or even death resulting from certain pollution sources. Pollution that results in injury or death for occupants can result in huge claims, especially if the pollution is facility-based, such as mold, poor ventilation, improper waste disposal or any number of other possibilities. Eldercare facilities could be sued for bodily injury, and are also potentially liable for legal defense fees, business interruption costs and hazardous material cleanup costs.

Outdoor Pollution Sources

  • Air pollution - pollen, dust or vehicle emissions
  • Unsanitary debris from nearby loading docks or trash bins
  • Seepage from underground storage tanks or improperly applied pesticides or herbicides
  • Building exhaust near air intakes

Indoor Pollution Sources

  • HVAC equipment
  • Emissions from office equipment, labs or shops
  • Improper ventilation
  • Mold conditions
  • Fumes from freshly applied paint, cleaning materials, or new furnishings or flooring
  • Materials containing volatile organic compounds or damaged asbestos
  • Food preparation or arts and crafts areas
  • Improperly handled medical waste

Limiting Your Liability

The smartest action you can take is to familiarize yourself with all the potential pollution hazards in and around your facility, and take action to make the environment as safe as possible. Have your building, ventilation and HVAC systems inspected periodically. Create policies for properly handling, storing and disposing of any potentially hazardous materials. The more proactive you are in addressing these concerns, the better you will be able to protect your residents and your organization.

It is also wise to purchase pollution insurance coverage, as most other policies specifically exclude pollution.