No business wants to face a pollution loss, but the exposures are real and claims happen.

Demolition contractors are tasked with structural dismantlement, site clearance, salvage, environmental remediation and industrial recovery. These tasks can cause conditions that lead to environmental incidents or exposures. Without proper training, mistakes can be made, resulting in potential environmental incidents, injuries to personnel or third parties, and litigation suits.

Environmental Risk Professionals aims to help you navigate and mitigate these various risks you may face as a demolition contractor.

Consider this environmental example:

While working to remove lead-based paint from a commercial building, a demolition contractor isolated all the areas of the building where work was being done, but the HVAC system was left intact and running. As a result, dust from the work entered the HVAC system and clogged the heating coils. The contractor was required to pay to replace the HVAC system and for business interruption for the building tenants. They faced claims of $550,000.

You can download CERC’s tips for Demolition Contractors by clicking on the button below, or continue reading by scrolling down the page.

01. Contaminant-Containing Particles

Removal of wallboard, insulation and other dry building materials can release dust containing a large variety of contaminant-containing particles/substances that are allergenic or disease-causing, including crystalline silica and asbestos. Often referred to as fugitive dust, emission from demolition operations may escape from the protected area or contaminate existing ventilation systems where building occupancy exists and become respirable to third parties, exposing the contractor to tort liability.

02. Asbestos

Demolition contractors may remove or encounter asbestos in many applications in residential, commercial and industrial properties, including ceiling and floor tiles, heating duct insulation, thermal pipe insulation and roofing materials.  During demolition, existing asbestos could be disturbed and inhalable fibers could be released and expose third parties to serious health hazards or fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers.

03. Mold

During demolition, mold can be encountered in non-visible areas such as in insulation materials, attics/roofs, conduit traces, crawl-space conduits, basements, behind wallboard, under carpeting, in pump or filter housings and in piping/duct runs. When mold-impacted areas are disturbed, small spores and fragments are readily released. Without careful containment and cleanup, these mold particles will disperse further and expose building occupants. Failure to identify, dry or remove all moisture-impacted building materials allows for continued or subsequent mold growth. These may lead to additional property damage and health issues.

04. Lead

Lead can be found in piping systems and lead-based paint on the interior or exterior of a structure to be demolished or salvaged. Lead particles could be released, exposing third parties. Lead exposure can be by inhalation or ingestion, and when absorbed into the body in high enough doses, it can be toxic.

05. Underground Utilities

Demolition activities can impact utilities, like electrical transformers, gas lines, water and sewage pipes, and above and below-ground tanks such as fuel and septic tanks. The accidental release of fuel oil, chemicals, toxic gases or sewage from broken pipelines, utilities and stationary and mobile tanks can contaminate soil and groundwater and release hazardous air emissions.

06. Waste Handling

Hazardous wastes that may be found in demolition projects include asbestos-containing materials, lead-based paint, lead pipe and solder, fluorescent tubes and bulbs, mercury switches and thermostats, paints, solvents, pesticides, PCB-containing transformers or light ballasts, PCB-containing paint or caulking, radionuclide-containing smoke detectors and exit signs and refrigerants from air conditioning units. Hazardous waste requires proper handling and disposal procedures. When collected at a jobsite, it must be properly segregated, or it can accidentally get mixed with non-hazardous waste and be improperly disposed of. When an investigation for improper disposal occurs at a disposal facility, it can result in potential liability for all parties that manifested waste to the facility.  Waste container breaches or improper handling of hazardous waste may also result in releases during storage, loading and unloading operations and during transportation to and from the jobsite to a disposal facility.   


Demolition contractors have a variety of environmental exposures to consider when at a jobsite. Taking steps to become a Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractor (CERC) will not only put your future clients at ease, it will help train your employees to mitigate environmental risks and may help your business reduce or avoid potential litigation and lawsuits.

CERC showcases contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors become CERC certified by establishing an environmental risk management training plan and securing true pollution coverage. Insurance requirements include a one (1) million dollar limit; first and third-party transportation coverage; non-owned disposal sites (NODS) coverage; mold coverage; natural resource damage coverage; and no sudden and accidental pollution release coverage limitation.

About CERC

Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractors (CERC) is a certification program that aims to promote environmentally responsible contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors can become certified when managing their environmental risks by securing broadened pollution insurance and by appropriately training their employees. Training may include OSHA required training, industry-wide standard practices and/or Pollution Prevention Practices provided by Environmental Risk Professionals.