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At Mason & Mason Insurance we are committed to serving our clients with a level of personal contact and professional accountability that is increasingly rare in an age of faceless financial services firms. Whether we’re working with a builder to minimize risk or supporting a homeowner through a challenging claim, we know our success is based on investing in our clients.

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Fireplace Maintenance

Your fireplace looks beautiful and adds warmth to your home. It can also be a fire hazard, though. Protect your home and family as you enjoy the beautiful ambiance when you follow a fireplace maintenance schedule and implement safety tips this winter.

Check the Chimney

An essential part of your fireplace, the chimney needs a thorough inspection once a year. Hire a professional to look for cracks and other damage and to clean out combustible buildup like creosote. Then, secure a spark-arrestor screen to the chimney as you prevent dangerous sparks from escaping and damaging animals from entering.

Start the Fire Safely

Before you light a relaxing fire, open the flue. Start the fire with only approved materials like newspaper and dry logs. Once you have the fire going, don’t use it to burn holiday gift wrapping or grill food.

Maintain the Screen or Door

Every fireplace needs a safety screen or glass door. It prevents sparks from flying into your home and discourages your children or pets from reaching into the fireplace. Ensure the screen is constantly in place and free from any damage as you reduce accidental burns and other injuries.

Remove Combustibles

Flammable rugs, draperies, paper and other combustibles should be located at least three feet away from the fireplace. Otherwise, these combustible materials could cause a fire.

Use the Right Tools

Metal tools safely adjust logs and remove ash. Store them near the fireplace (but out of your children’s reach!)

Provide Proper Supervision

Always supervise your fire. If left unattended, sparks could start a fire in your home or your children or pets could walk into the bright but hot embers.

Remove Ash and Coal Properly

A one-inch layer of ash in the firebox insulates the fire. To remove excess ash or coals, wait until they’re completely cool. Use an ash vacuum or metal shovel, and place the materials in a secure metal container outdoors.

You’ll safely enjoy your fireplace all season when you use proper fireplace maintenance procedures. For more fireplace safety tips, visit This Old House online. Keeping your home in top condition can actually help reduce your insurance premiums. Give us a call today to update your home insurance policy and provide a layer of protection for your family and house.


Handling Lead and Asbestos and Other ...

If you work in construction, it’s not uncommon to encounter asbestos, lead, and other hazardous materials on a remodeling or deconstruction job. When that does happen, here are the appropriate steps you’re going to want to take:

Clear the Area

If you find asbestos in a home, you’ll want to clear the area right away. Lead exposure can take years to create any lasting damage in the human body, but even mild exposure to asbestos can be dangerous.

Report

As soon as possible, report your findings to the proper authorities. In more cases than not, this will be the EPA. False alarms do happen, it’s not uncommon for some other material to be mistaken for asbestos, but the EPA will typically have some tests conducted in order to determine what it is that you’re dealing with. You’ll also want to let your client know that anyone who has been living or working in the building has potentially been exposed to the hazardous material.

For Asbestos and Other Hazards: Get a Professional

If you’re removing asbestos, you need to be certified, and if you are certified, you still need to report to the proper authorities that you’re going to be taking asbestos out of an old home.

If you would like to get certified to remove asbestos in order to prevent any findings from slowing a construction job down too much, you can get started at the EPA website. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/training

For Lead: Proceed With Caution

You can remove lead on your own in most states with or without certification, but it can be a tricky process. Make sure that anyone involved in the job is wearing a dust mask, goggles and gloves, and be sure to clear the area to ensure that lead dust doesn’t get on anything. Sweep and clean the area thoroughly when you’re done.

Replace

Asbestos is more troublesome than it’s worth, but it is very good at one thing: preventing fire damage. It is nearly impossible to get the stuff to burn. Following the removal of any hazardous building material, you have to take a moment to consider why it was installed in the first place. Lead pipes are easy enough to replace with PVC, while asbestos removal should be followed up with the installation of something to replace it, like fiber-cement siding.

Finally: You’ll want to keep an eye on the health of yourself and your crew. The real threat is prolonged exposure, and most remodeling jobs are over and done with by the time the effects of exposure to hazardous materials can really be felt, but as always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Why You Should Use Hold Harmless ...

We frequently receive inquiries from contractors pertaining to contractual insurance requirements and how to obtain “additional insured” status on a policy.  We’ve learned throughout the years that the answer is not always the same.  Insurance forms read differently, and then can change as soon as you think you know them.

However the forms may read, there are some “best practices” you should adhere to when hiring subcontractors, or when you are accepting a job as a subcontractor:

Use a Contract

If you hire subcontractors, you already require them to sign a hold harmless agreement to protect yourself from covered losses arising out of their ongoing and completed operations.  These contracts should contain properly worded indemnification and additional insured requirements for the subcontractor’s insurance to recognize you as an insured, and to cover you.

Many insurers use additional insured forms that contain language similar to, “additional insured status when required by written contract or agreement.”  Some go as far as requiring an “executed” contract prior to the commencement of work.  It’s imperative for general contractors to have a signed contract before a subcontractor begins work in order to obtain additional insured status.

See our article “Recommended Procedures & Documentation When Hiring Subcontractors” for more information on contractual insurance requirements.

Read the Contract and Understand What You are Agreeing to

If you are a subcontractor, read the contract the general contractor presents to you.  Understand what you are promising when you agree to the terms and conditions of the contract.  We have seen contracts ask for more than what standard insurance forms will actually do.

If you are a subcontractor of a subcontractor, be sure to obtain and read the prime contract between the general contractor and the subcontractor who is hiring you.  You may be agreeing to the terms and conditions in that contract as well.

Sign the Contract

Some courts have determined that subcontractors “agreed” to provide the contractual additional insured requirement by beginning work.  However, when the subcontractor caused or contributed to a loss on the job, their insurance did not respond to recognize the general contractor as an additional insured because of the absence of a previously signed (relative to the claim) or “executed” contract.  This left the general contractor exposed to cover the cost of defense and indemnification with their own resources, then sued the subcontractor for a “breach of contract.”

 

Mason & Mason is an insurance agency.  We are not members of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the information above is for informational purposes only.  We strongly suggest you consult an attorney before making any decision on the wording and/or use of legal contract documents.