Signage Liability

Who owns it when something goes wrong? 7/09/2014 8:27 AM Eastern

Signage Liability

Jul 9, 2014 12:27 PM, By Brian McClimans, vice president, global business development, Peerless-AV

Who owns it when something goes wrong?

No matter the industry, accidents happen. Often when they do occur, an endless game of finger pointing ensues. Everyone suffers in a blame game, especially when issues of safety and liability are raised.

These days, multiple contractors are often involved in an installation. On such projects, you should consider several questions including, when your subcontractor installs a wall, what types of studs does he use? Who is responsible for installing the mounts on the wall? Is it the same person who is responsible for putting the TVs on the mounts? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, who does?

When things go wrong, I hear, “Well, I was just responsible for putting the mount on the wall.” And, I ask, “Well, who told you what was going on it?” To which I hear, “Well, I wasn't told that. I was just told to mount it on the wall, so that’s all I did.” This type of conversation persists during each step of the process.

Who Owns the Liability?

When multiple people are involved and something dangerous happens, it may be hard to find a party willing to take responsibility and own this liability. It may be particularly challenging to determine where, in fact, things did go wrong. When multiple people are involved on an installation, at what point does each person take over the responsibility and liability for each stage? What I want the industry to think about is this: Who takes over the liability for that beautiful new digital signage installation hanging over the heads of individuals at large events? This is a concern that integrators should have when specifying their involvement in a project. It certainly should be specified ahead of time because, if and when something goes wrong, every single subcontractor is involved.

Who Hires the Project’s Subcontractors?

These days, for the most part, multiple companies come in to work on a project. The larger the project, the more subcontractors you have involved. For example, digital signage installations at a stadium could involve hundreds of different contractors. Small installs could still involve multiple parties.

Chances are the general contractor isn’t the one hiring everyone. His job could be to build the whole property, but the end customer may come in and subcontract digital signage installs. The customer may think that what they are doing is moving toward getting the project completed in timely manner. While that’s true, this is exactly where a liability concern is created. There’s no guarantee the subcontractors will collaborate.

Without the end customer specifically instructing it to occur, the subcontractors will not be taking direction from the general contractor; it’s not them they are trying to please, but the end customer who is paying the bill and giving direction. Instead, they will focus on their section of the project, not the project in totality.

Someone needs to be appointed as the project manger/general contractor of the entire project to assume the responsibility and liability for the entire process, rather than individuals who come in to simply do their portion. This individual would then make sure each subcontractor he hires assumes their liability and understands their space and role. Without this, walk-throughs will be missed and anything that goes wrong will result in a never-ending blame game.

What Else Could Go Wrong?

A simple lack of communication can result in large added costs. For example, electrical and video pulls are installed based on the architect’s specifications, but when the video contractor comes to install a mount, he finds an air conditioning vent in his way. A few inches create visible wires, meaning the electrician is called back in and the drywall and paint must be redone. The issue of lack of accountably occurs again.

Long story short: Liability and safety issues are reduced when working with a general contractor who will oversee the entire build. Never assume or take risks, especially when it comes to safety. Double-check everything to get it right.

Brian McClimans serves as vice president of global business development at Peerless-AV, where he is responsible for establishing new markets, developing new products, and managing strategic relationships throughout North America, South America, EMEA, and Mexico. With more than 20 years of experience in the audiovisual manufacturing and distribution industry, McClimans has played a key role in the development and implementation of numerous national digital signage projects including videowall, menu-board, and interactive kiosk solutions. He frequently speaks at industry conferences including InfoComm and the Digital Signage Expo. McClimans was nominated to and serves on the Board of Directors for the Digital Signage Federation since 2013. He has also been a member of the Stadium Managers Association and the Society of Information Displays.

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