After attending the Carolinas Lathing and Plastering Contractors Association meeting in Myrtle Beach this past September, I was enlightened and outraged by a presentation given by Jim Byrd, of the South Carolina Dept. of Insurance. (For a full report on his presentation, please see Industry News on page 12.) I was enlightened (again) by greed’s increasing yoke on our culture, and outraged by the repercussions of this greed. I am, of course, referring to the sudden mold litigation mania.
There are two articles on mold in W&C this month, in addition to the news piece. One is a feature by Bruce Small that is very informative on the basics of mold and construction. The other is Jim Olsztynski’s Smart Business column.
Information such as this will keep contractors aware of mold’s threats. While some mold does represent health risks, contractors must also arm themselves with information to avoid being swindled. As Jim illustrates in his column, there are probably champagne corks popping in lawyers’ offices everywhere from the opportunity of mold. Mold can be gold. But how real is the danger of mold?
Certainly, mold can be a source of health problems. However, when is mold truly a health hazard and more important, who is really to blame? If it can be determined the mold is easily dispatched with a bit of bleach and elbow grease, it should not be considered part of the hysteria.
As always, it is the job of the contractor to educate his or her customers on the facts. What is the reality of mold? When is it dangerous? How can it be prevented? Know these facts. Replace confusion with reality.
If factual information isn’t shared, everyone becomes a victim of panic caused by greed. Huge lawsuit settlements in turn cause insurance companies to stop insuring anything that could cause outrageous settlements. Pretty soon, we’re going to face a serious crack in our system: insurance companies that no longer want to insure anything but a risk-free proposition. If there’s no risk, why would we need to be insured in the first place?
Competent professional practices and sharing facts can smother hysteria. It’s our job to take pride in learning the facts so we may speak intelligently to those who only know the sensationalistic aspects of mold. Competent sharing of information begets confidence in a professional’s work—an important responsibility of everyone in any company.
In this issue of W&C, you’ll meet the winners of the “Redo Your Crew” contest. We all know construction is a messy trade and one cannot always look neat. However, one can still look professional. One’s appearance is part of being professional, as is knowing one’s business. Look professional and think professionally. Teach your crew manners. Make them talk intelligently. Don’t tolerate lazy grammar or lazy attitudes, especially when customers and vendors are involved. There’s a sales concept called “transfer of enthusiasm.” Without being too nauseating about what you do, focus on the positive and artistic aspects of construction. Sometimes, people need to feel like what they’re doing is not just grunt work but that they are part of a bigger picture—this is always true in construction.
Professional in appearance and in mind: This is the type of person who retains facts and shares them. If we raise the bar of pride across the board and demand better standards of self and crew, perhaps this fire of litigation will quickly fizzle. Instead of turning mold into gold, let’s turn professionalism into gold—the contractor’s gold not the lawyers’.