Standardized, Responsive Complaint Management Can Pay Off for Blasting Companies

It is important for all blasting companies to make sure there is a process in place to handle complaints before the first shot is detonated on a project. A complaint form, like the one available from the ISEE website, is essential. Make sure the form identifies the date and time of the complaint, the nature of the complaint, relevant contact information, and how the complaint was handled. Although not based on empirical data, an estimated 80% to 90% of all blasting claims could be avoided if the initial complaints were properly handled. Typically a single person should be assigned the task of receiving and responding to complaints, but everyone should be aware of the process. Often, homeowners complain to the flag man, the security guard, or the blaster’s helper at the grocery store. In the homeowner’s mind, he or she filed a complaint with the company and expects a prompt response.

All complaints must be taken seriously and responded to in an appropriate manner. In many jurisdictions, failure to properly respond to a complaint can be the basis for punitive damages, which is an award of damages above the compensatory damages actually incurred. In other words, if a jury determines blasting caused $20,000 in cosmetic and structural damages to a home, it can award the homeowner $20,000 in compensatory damages, and additional punitive damages that are a multiplier of the compensatory damages. In some jurisdictions, that multiplier can be nine times the compensatory damages (State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 123 S.Ct. 1513, 155 L.Ed.2d 585 (2003), which increases a $20,000 claim to $200,000 ($180,000 in punitive damages). Maintain written documentation of all complaints and information regarding responses. If a complaint is sent to a third-party for evaluation, maintain the third-party’s written response. All complaints should be stored in one location pursuant to a written protocol. If followed, the absence of a written proof of a complaint can be helpful to show no complaint was made.

If necessary, use third-party consultants to respond to complaints and consider appropriate adjustments to the blast design. At a minimum, proper complaint procedures will incorporate the following: good communication and clearly defined roles within the company; designation of the appropriate contact person to receive and respond to complaints; notice of the complaint to all supervisor(s) and appropriate personnel; prompt, professional, and courteous responses to all complaints in writing; and documentation of investigation.

Image by CSIRO, CC BY 3.0.