Boxed In

Your container, your liability.

It is fairly common for a container or roll-off box to make contact with and damage the property of others while that container is being delivered, emptied or set back in place. Parked cars, sides of buildings and container enclosures are the objects most frequently damaged. These types of accidents are covered by a waste company’s commercial auto policy since the waste truck is in the process of loading or unloading the container. However, when container-related accidents or injuries occur exclusive of the loading/unloading process, those claims fall under a waste company’s general liability coverage.

General liability claims associated with commercial containers and roll-off boxes can result from a number of different causes. The most common incident is minor damage that occurs when a wheeled container either rolls into or is blown by the wind into a parked vehicle or other property. These types of incidents are more likely to occur when the wheeled container is placed on an unlevel surface. The best way to prevent these types of claims is to have adequate wheel locks on all wheeled containers, but in some cases it may be necessary to chain the container to a stationary object.

More serious general liability claims loom when a container is alleged to have played a role in injuring someone other than the waste company’s own employees. Children and adults have suffered injuries while climbing into or on top of containers. For this reason, adequate warning decals should be placed on all containers. While these warning decals may not prevent an injury claim from being filed, they may help with the defense of such claims.

A container’s location also has factored into a number of general liability claims. Though the customer may direct the waste company to place the container in a preferred location, it is the waste company’s responsibility to make sure that its placement does not create a safety hazard. The placement of a container in a location that forces the customer’s employees or residents to unnaturally reach or climb, or exposes them to vehicular traffic can result in a general liability claim should an injury occur. Placing of a roll-off box on a city street or on the side of the road can result in a general liability claim should a vehicle crash into the roll-off box or if the box obstructs the view of motorists near an intersection or driveway, causing an accident. The placement of any container should always be made with pedestrian and vehicle safety in mind. Reflective tape will help make passing nighttime motorists aware of roll-off boxes placed on the side of the road.

Finally, fluids or pellets leaking from your containers can cause a slip-and-fall hazard for your customer’s employees or other pedestrians. Inspect your containers on a regular basis, repair holes and make sure that drain plugs are in place to help prevent these types of claims.

Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services, Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.

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