Sick Building Blues

What Are Risk Scenarios?

Each Risk Scenario consists of two parts — The Scenario and The Analysis.

Part 1: The Scenario (15 minutes) Read The Scenario and answer integrated poll questions that solicit your approach to the situation. The Scenario is based on hypothetical situations that showcase emerging risks.

Part 2: The Analysis Benchmark your responses against other participants, access relevant Risk & Insurance articles, review curated resources from the web and learn about existing products.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.


Stacie Egger’s runny nose woke her up before the January sunlight did. She blew her nose, for what seemed the umpteenth time in the past 24 hours.

Heavy from sleep, she pushed the indented button on her phone down to illuminate the screen to check the time.

5:40 a.m., too darn early to be getting up. But she had this sneezing and congestion that just wouldn’t go away, headaches too.

The headache wasn’t there this morning but she feared that it would come on again this afternoon, as it had several times in the past couple of weeks.

The steam from the shower offered some relief, but as the 28-year old designer drove to work, she sneezed half a dozen times more.

“What is this?” she wondered. “I hope I don’t have the flu.”

______

In her pod at Mindbender, the design and marketing firm, Stacie sipped her morning coffee and tried to concentrate on work. But it seemed like people were sneezing all around the office. Two of her team members were out sick.

Fearing a run of the flu, Stacie emailed the company’s human resources manager, Linda Morris on Jan. 23, thus etching her concern in concrete.

“I’m concerned that much of our staff is out sick or seems to be suffering from flu-like symptoms,” Stacie wrote Linda.

Linda was already seeing what Stacie was talking about. She had been tracking absences for the past three months. Mindbender really had a problem on its hands by all appearances. The company had logged an increase in sick days of 41 percent over this time last year.

Linda ordered hand sanitizers to be placed throughout the office, and also sent out an email re-emphasizing that the company would reimburse employees for the cost of flu shots and other preventative measures.

With authorization from her CEO, Linda also contacted Able Global Properties, the New York-based real estate investment firm that owned the mixed-use development, Riverbend, which was built on the site of a former tube steel manufacturing plant on the Ohio River.

Linda told an Able Global operations manager that her firm was concerned about the air quality in the office. As a triple-net renter, Mindbender had borne the cost of the build-out of its office. But under the terms of the rental agreement, Able Global was responsible for the building’s operation and maintenance.

In her conversation with Able Global, Linda suggested that the property manager hire an environmental consultant to look into the air quality issue. After all, the office building was built on a brownfield, Linda reasoned.

The operations manager knew what Linda meant. “Brownfields” describe abandoned, former industrial properties that, generally speaking, have contamination.

_____

“She said what?” said Glenn Able, the founder of Able Global, when his operations manager told him a tenant was asking his company to hire an environmental consultant.

“I love it when people tell me how to run my business,” Able said.

“What should I tell her?” his operations person asked.

“I don’t know that we need to tell her anything,” Able said. “It’s flu season isn’t it? I’ll think about it.

“Besides, I think we have some environmental coverage as a part of our general liability policy, though, if there is something to all of this,” he added.

But he couldn’t remember the limits on it right off. He’d have to look into that.

Have you and your broker created an investigation and response plan to deal with tenant health care concerns in the event of potential environmental exposures?

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