by Ed Schirick
create risks to our health, wellness, and enjoyment of the camp experience.
Mosquitoes, ticks, lice, fleas, mice, mold, and other pests can cause
damageto property, sickness, suffering, and even death.
Recently, mosquitoes have contributed to the spread of West Nile Virus
across the U.S. Other threats from pests may be more familiar. Examples
include building damage from termites or toxic mold and illness including
Lyme disease, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,
and rash illnesses.
As the West Nile Virus spreads across the country, more municipalities
and property owners may be inclined to spray pesticides and herbicides
to control mosquitoes. This action may be in addition to other chemicals
already being used on the premises to control other pests. While spraying
to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus among campers and staff may make
sense, the action poses another risk for camp owners to consider.
The Camp General Liability Policy
Most camp general liability policies have a total pollution exclusion.
This endorsement eliminates coverage for "bodily injury" or "property
damage," which would not have occurred in whole, or in part, except for
the actual, alleged, or threatened discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration,
release, or escape of pollutants.
"Pollutants" in the general liability policy means "any solid, liquid,
gaseous, or thermal irritant, or contaminant, including smoke, vapor,
soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals, and waste. Waste includes materials
to be recycled, reconditioned, or reclaimed." Under this definition, "bodily
injury" or "property damage" from the actual spraying or dispersal of
pesticide or herbicide by the camp staff to control West Nile Virus,
or any other pest for that matter, is probably not covered by the camp
general liability policy.
In addition, the general liability policy contains exclusions for "bodily
injury" or "property damage" that is either expected or intended from
the standpoint of the insured. Consequently, it is possible that "bodily
injury," in the form of an allergic reaction from the chemical, could
be excluded if the insurance company determines the allergic reaction
should have been expected from your standpoint.
To sum up briefly, if someone suffers "bodily injury" or "property damage" that
is the result of your staff using pesticides and herbicides, your camp
general liability insurance most likely provides no insurance protection.
If your staff has been applying chemicals to control pests at camp, you
have been assuming these risks blindly. This represents a significant
gap in your risk transfer plan.
The issue of whether pesticides and herbicides are truly "safe" to use
at camp creates several serious questions: Is it appropriate to assume
that if you can buy the chemicals they are safe to use? Aren't the commercial
pesticide and herbicide products sold in most stores - or available through
camp vendors - approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? If
they are, what is the concern? While the chemicals may be tested and
approved, are you prepared to rely upon this fact as your sole defense
if something happens? The tests the manufacturer and the FDA perform
on these various chemicals are not exhaustive and often inconclusive.
How often have you discovered that a drug or chemical that you were told
was safe for the public was actually - after a period of time and use
- the cause of injury or illness? Remember DDT? Do you want to assume
the financial risk of paying a "bodily injury" or "property damage" claim
out of your own pocket? If you do, then do nothing!
How Does Your Risk Management Plan Address the Risks
Caused by Pests?
Many camp risk management plans address this issue incompletely. Sometimes,
the pest control plan is buried in the facility risk management plan,
or part of it is in food service, or perhaps in the health center protocols.
To maximize efficiency and effectiveness, the risk of illness and property
damage from pests should be put into the context of the overall risk
Some camp directors have thought this issue through quite clearly and
have adopted a policy about the use of chemicals that has been translated
into an environmental statement and risk management plan. The policy
controls how herbicide and pesticide chemicals will be used on camp property.
What Are the Steps in Developing Such a Policy?
Start with the risk management process.
The first step in the process is to identify the illness and property damage
risks from pests at your camp. You might hold a "brainstorming" session with
your camp nurse, doctor, health department, food service director, head counselor,
and other key staff to help identify these risks. The Center for Disease
Control has extensive information to help you identify pest related health
issues. Visit www.cdc.gov for help in the risk-identification and risk-control
Actions to control
Once the risks are identified and quantified, actions to control the risks
- avoid, reduce, prevent, transfer, or assume - can be adopted. As a practical
matter, the use of chemicals on people and on property should be limited
and be the last choice. If you agree, that means you must take some time
to educate yourself about each of the pests and what can be done to avoid,
reduce, and prevent the risks in each situation.
For example, one way to avoid the risk of West Nile Virus is not to
go out at dawn or dusk -times when mosquitoes are most active. This may
not be entirely practical at camp. An example of risk reduction is to
wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, whenever possible - and spray
insect repellent with DEET on the outside of your clothes. An example
of prevention is to limit the number of places available for mosquitoes
to lay their eggs by eliminating standing water sources on camp property.
Obviously, each situation will be different, and you will have to use
your judgment accordingly.
Risk transfer is also an option for your pest control plan. Insurance coverage
may be available in your camp general liability policy for an additional
premium. There is a Pesticide or Herbicide Applicator Coverage endorsement
available in all states, which would provide coverage for "bodily injury" or "property
damage" arising from the intentional act of spraying pesticide or herbicide.
The endorsement grants coverage "if all of the standards of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, or license requirement of any federal, state, or local
government which apply to the operation are met." While this endorsement
may be available, your particular underwriter may not be willing to provide
it. Or, you may not want to go to the trouble of learning about all of the
standards and statutes -and have one of your staff become licensed to apply
An alternative to spraying yourself and transferring the risk to your
camp general liability insurer is to hire an independent contractor -
pest control co