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3D Risks

3D Printing Offers New Risk Challenges

Revolutionary 3D printing processes offer known and unknown risks.
By: | March 17, 2014 • 3 min read
031720143Dprinting

As commercial 3D printing advances from occasional to routine use, the product liability landscape will shift around it. Defective and counterfeit product exposures, among others, will arise for all participants along the manufacturing continuum, industry experts said.

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In an adverse incident, said Rob Gaus, product risk leader, Marsh, liability will be apportioned among participants in the manufacturing and distribution stream: product manufacturer, printer manufacturer, software designer, feedstock supplier, distributor (especially if it modifies the product) and retailer (if the manufacturer is not well capitalized). No case law exists yet.

In 3D printing, a computer sends the software containing a product design to one or more printers, which builds the product, layer by layer, from many kinds of materials — plastics, metals, drugs, paints and even human tissue.

David Carlson, U.S. manufacturing and automotive practice leader, Marsh, said 3D-printed products are treated the same as any other new operation that poses new risks.

Underwriters and brokers must first assess the company’s risk management profile and risk appetite. When production, research and development teams look at technology, “they should loop in risk management. Risk management should be part of the continuum, or the company could get into sticky situations.”

The emerging risks include unregulated manufacturing, said Mark Schonfeld, a partner at Burns & Levinson LLP in Boston specializing in business and intellectual property law.

If 3D printing enables production of, say, just 100 hip implants or 100 hearing aids, such work will generally take place outside of a traditional mass-production factory, which is subject to government regulation and inspection.

“Insurance companies like FDA oversight of manufacturing because it makes products safer and helps identify responsibility when things go wrong,” Schonfeld said.

To protect themselves and their clients, Schonfeld advises insurers to keep abreast of technological developments, consult with a creative and knowledgeable attorney about how to address liability exposure, and adjust existing policies to be fair to consumers and prevent injury to the insurance company.

3D printing also raises the risk of counterfeit products, said Peter Dion, line of business director-product liability, Zurich Insurance. The digital “recipe” in the software design, and is vulnerable to capture, he said.

Although there is no encryption mechanism for the software, one solution might be to transfer the digital file in pieces only as they are needed by the printer to prevent capture of the entire design signature, Dion said.

Manufacturers have always struggled with counterfeit products, but 3D printing magnifies the risks because it can slash the time from product development to market-ready product to a matter of hours and requires no molds or prototypes. “Hackers can take the proprietary blueprint or software, send it to a third-world country, and have the product ready for market tomorrow,” said Carlson. “That’s a business disruption issue. Counterfeiters can put a company out of business.”

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Drug manufacturers may subvert counterfeiters by adding tracer elements and watermarks to their formulations, which protects their reputations, profits and public health. “If the counterfeiters get the recipe wrong, they might not produce high-quality drugs for public consumption,” Carlson said.

Other manufacturers can also use watermarks and digital rights management (DRM) software to prevent file sharing. Still, Carlson said, counterfeiting is an old problem. “Bad guys have always exploited new technologies for their personal gain.”

The materials used by manufacturers present a greater potential loss exposure than the 3D printer itself, said Dion, noting that it is just another piece of equipment, like a pencil or a lathe.

For example, if a 3D printer is used to replicate a cupcake, the manufacturer should be as careful of contaminants in the mix as traditional bakers need to be. “When 3D printer manufacturers purchase materials from suppliers, they need to perform due diligence on their supplier’s products also.”

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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Column: Technology

Can We Trust Driverless Vehicles?

By: | September 15, 2014 • 3 min read
Ara Trembly is founder of The Tech Consultant and The Rogue Guru Blog. He can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Several years ago, I read a story about a man who purchased a brand new mobile home. One day, while driving along, he decided he needed a cup of coffee, so he set the mobile home on cruise control and walked back to make said coffee.

Needless to say, the vehicle ran off the road and crashed. It turns out this story wasn’t true, but it does reinforce the idea that technology left alone in a moving vehicle may not be a good idea.

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That brings us to the subject of the proposed driverless car, a topic on which I have opined previously.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes that, “Between now and 2016, an increasing number of car makers will offer ‘traffic jam assist’ systems that take over braking, steering and acceleration for vehicles inching along in low-speed traffic. It is a far cry from Google Inc.’s vision for a car that can drive itself in all conditions, but auto makers and suppliers have long taken the view that quantum leaps typically take place one mile at a time.

At first, this seems like a very appealing concept. I was recently stuck in a monster traffic jam on Interstate 95 in South Carolina, and I certainly could have saved a great deal of effort and aggravation over the hour or so that we crawled along if my car simply took over all the stops and starts while I grabbed a nap.

But I also remember that during this mind numbing event there were several times when people, including children, got out of their cars to walk around on the roadway.

Common sense and true concern for the safety of drivers demand that we strike a balance between technology that reduces risk and gadgets that actually increase the danger by removing responsibility and accountability.

Would my “traffic jam assist” recognize that potential hazard? And would the software alert me when the road was clear again? One wonders.

Auto industry executives, the Journal says, intend to offer systems that can robotically pilot a car at speeds up to 40 miles per hour within the next five years or so.

“Meanwhile, federal safety regulators say they are still conducting research on the potential safety and benefits of autonomous technology.”

Well done, regulators. Any technology that substitutes itself for the alertness and judgment needed from a human driver is risky by definition.

Ask yourself how many times your own computer fails to work quickly — or just quits working, necessitating a reboot or some other fix. Most of us have come to accept these glitches as a fact of life, but motoring down the road at 40 mph (and I’m sure it will be faster as time goes on), there would be no time for a reboot.

As I noted in my previous writings on this subject, accidents involving the inevitable failure (even if it is only occasional) of such technology could be a nightmare for insurers who need to assign risk and pay claims.

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Certainly, technology that automatically brakes before my car can smash into anything is a potential lifesaver. The real danger is from technology that allows or encourages human drivers to stop paying attention, because the human brain understands things about risk that a computer chip may not.

Common sense and true concern for the safety of drivers demand that we strike a balance between technology that reduces risk and gadgets that actually increase the danger by removing responsibility and accountability.

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Sponsored: Liberty International Underwriters

A New Dawn in Civil Construction Underwriting

Civil construction projects provide utility and also help define who we are. So when it comes to managing project risk, it's critical to get it right.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 5 min read
SponsoredContent_LIU

Pennsylvania school children know the tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike by name — Blue Mountain, Kittatinny, Tuscarora, and Allegheny.

San Francisco owes much of its allure to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Delaware Memorial Bridge commemorates our fallen soldiers.

Our public sector infrastructure is much more than its function as a path for trucks and automobiles. It is part of our national and regional identity.

Yet it’s widely known that much of our infrastructure is inadequate. Given the number of structures designated as substandard, the task ahead is substantial.

The Civil Construction projects that can meet these challenges, however, carry a unique set of risks compared to other forms of construction.

SponsoredContent_LIU“The bottom line is that there is always risk in a Civil Construction project. If the parties involved don’t understand what risk they carry, then the chances are there are going to be some problems, and the insurers would ideally like to understand the potential for these problems in advance.”
– Paul Hampshire, Vice President – Civil Construction, LIU

The good news is that recent developments in construction standards and risk management techniques provide a solid foundation for the type and risk allocation of Civil Construction projects they are underwriting. Carriers need to be able to adequately assess the client and design and construction teams that are involved.

For Builder’s Risk Programs, a successful approach prioritizes a focus on four key factors. These factors are looked at not only during the underwriting phase of the project but also in the all-important site construction phase, under the umbrella of a Risk Management Program, or RMP.

Four key factors

Four key factors that LIU focuses on in underwriting and providing risk management services on a Civil Construction project include:

1. Resource knowledge and experience: When creating a coverage plan, carriers work to understand who is delivering the project and how well suited key staff members are to addressing the project’s technical and management challenges. Research has shown that the knowledge and experience of those key players, combined with their ability to communicate effectively, is a big factor in the project’s success.

“We look to understand who is delivering a project, their expertise and experience in delivering projects of similar technical complexity in similar working conditions, even down to looking at the resumés of people in key positions,” said Paul Hampshire, Houston-based Vice President with Liberty International Underwriters.

2. Ground conditions and water: Soil and rock composition, the influence of ground and surface water, and foundation stability are key additional considerations in the construction of bridges, tunnels, and transit systems. If a suitable level of relevant ground (geotechnical) investigation and study has not been undertaken, or the results of such work not clearly interpreted, then it’s a red flag to underwriters, who would then question whether the project risk profile has been adequately evaluated and risks clearly and transparently allocated via suitable contract conditions.

SponsoredContent_LIU“As we all know, ground is very rarely a homogenous element within Civil Construction projects,” LIU’s Hampshire said.

“It tends to vary from any proposed geotechnical baseline specification with the consequential potential for changes in behavior during construction. We need to understand who has assessed the condition of the ground, its behavior and design parameters when compared with a particular method of construction, and all importantly, who has been allocated the ground risk in a project and the upfront mechanisms for contractual ground risk sharing, if applicable,” he said.

Knowing how much water is associated with the in-situ ground conditions as well as the intensity, distribution and adequate accommodation (both in the temporary as well as in the permanent project configurations) of rainfall for a site location and topography are also key. Tunneling projects, for example, can be hampered by the presence of too much or unforeseen quantities of groundwater.

“In major tunneling infrastructure projects, the influence of in-situ groundwater pressures and /or water inflows is a major factor when considering the choice of excavation method and sequence as well as tunnel lining design requirements,” LIU’s Hampshire said.

According to a recent article in Risk & Insurance, tunneling under a body of water is one of the most challenging risk engineering feats. Adequate drainage layouts and their installation sequence for highway projects and, in particular, the protection of sub-grade works are also important. “But under all circumstances, we need to understand how the water conditions have been evaluated,” Hampshire said.

3. Technical Challenges: This risk factor encompasses the assessment of the technical novelty or prototypical nature of the project (or more often, specific elements of it) and how well the previously demonstrated experience of both the design and construction teams aligns with the project’s technical requirements and the form of contract determined for the project. The client can choose the team, but savvy underwriters will conduct their own assessment to see how well-suited the team is to technical demands of the project.

4. Evaluation of Time and Cost: With limited information generally provided, we need to be able to verify as best as possible the adequacy of both the time and cost elements of the project. Our belief is simply that projects that are insufficient in either one or both of these elements potentially pose an increased risk, as the construction consortium tries to compensate for these deficiencies during construction.

SponsoredContent_LIU
Small diameter Tunnel Boring Machine designed for mixed ground conditions and water pressures in excess of 2.5 bar.

New standards

In the 1990s and early years of this millennium, a series of high-profile tunnel failures across the globe resulted in major losses for Civil Construction underwriters and their insureds.

In the early 2000s, both the tunnel and insurance industries worked together to create new standards for high-risk tunneling projects.

A Code of Practice for the Risk Management of Tunnel Works (TCoP) is increasingly relied on by project managers and underwriters to define the best practices in tunnel construction projects. This process ideally starts at project inception (conceptual design stage or equivalent) and continues to the hand-over of the completed project.

LIU’s Hampshire said alongside TCoP, the project-specific Geotechnical Baseline Report and its interpretation and reference within the project contract conditions gives the underwriter greater clarity as to who recognizes and carries the ground risk and how it’s allocated.

“The bottom line is that there is always risk in a Civil Construction project,” Hampshire said. “Is the risk transparently allocated or is it buried? If the parties involved don’t understand what risk they carry, then the chances are there are going to be some problems, and the insurers would ideally like to understand the potential for these problems in advance,” Hampshire said.

Paul Hampshire can be reached at Paul.Hampshire@libertyiu.com.

To learn more about how Liberty International Underwriters can help you conduct a Civil Construction risk assessment before your next project, contact your broker.

This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

LIU is part of the Global Specialty Division of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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