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The Health And Safety Executive recently published details of an accident involving a specialist piling/foundation/ground working company – Optima Foundations Limited – from Edlington, Doncaster. They were fined after a worker severed three of his fingers while inserting piles at building site in Lincolnshire.
It was reported that he was loading a section of casing due to be piled when the rig operator dropped the 500kg weight into his right hand before he had a chance to remove it. Three of his fingers were completely severed to the palm and surgeons were regrettably unable to reattach them.
The twenty seven year old man from Doncaster has been left with a permanent injury as a result of the incident 6th February 2012 in Martin at a social housing development.
Subsequently his employers were prosecuted after a thorough investigation by the (HSE) Health had found to identify failings. The Magistrates’ Court in Lincolnshire had heard that there was no system of verbal instructions or signals that would have indicated that the person injured was in a safe position and ready for the weight to be lowered. The rig operator would watch him and judge when it was appropriate to lower the weight -This being the current system of work.
The firm, Optima Foundations Ltd trading from Broomhouse Lane Industrial Estate, Edlington, Doncaster, was ordered to pay £8171 in costs on top of a fine totalling £15,000 after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Martin Giles, HSE inspector was quoted as saying:
“There was no safe system of work for the tasks being undertaken by the injured person. Had the weight been properly positioned for the length of tube being inserted, and had there been a recognised and agreed method of communicating that it was safe to receive the weight, then the incident could have avoided completely and he wouldn’t have suffered such life-changing injuries.
“Optima Foundations did not provide the injured person and his supervisor with adequate information, instruction and training, and there were defects in the functioning of the controls of the piling machine.”
Through the years liability insurance generally has come through unscathed in terms of price increases. The contracting trades (with the possible exception of the higher risk sectors such as scaffolders/roofers and groundworkers insurance) have seen quite stable premiums despite the insurance industry having to act in a more compliant manner in terms of recording employers liability history centrally on the ELTO system. Yet in these times of economic uncertainty business need to take a close look at each and every expense including insurance to maximise value for their premiums.
So, how can businesses save on liability insurance? The over-riding golden rule is NOT to cut corners. This is a false economy and potentially lead to financial ruin and heartache.
The following points could save a few pennies:
- Ensure you have a clean record. Accidents happen of course but take a look at your own Health and Safety, method statements and risk manangement practices as if there were no insurance in place. This applies whether you are a sole trader or a large contractor.
- Be honest and open with your broker/insurer. They are far more likely to help and deliver competitive terms if they know all the facts.
- Get accredited. Members of bodies or ISO accreditation bring discounts.
- Go for a higher excess if this suits your business
- Maximise any free temporary employee cover that is given on a policy
- Minimise height or depth restrictions. Your policy may have an unlimited height limit which is great unless you never work over 10 metres.
- If working within a multitude of trades, get advice on how to work to clarify the percentage of time working as each to maximise an efficient rate.
- Ask if the policy earns ” no claims discounts” or “low claims rebates” for larger risks.
- For larger contractors, look to go for a wageroll and turnover based product with a declaration a the end of the year.
- For smaller contractors such as painters and decorators liability insurance or those who have quite fixed employee levels, look at both a per capita policy and wageroll/turnover to see which suits best.
It should be re-iterated again that it is imperative not to cut corners. Take a look at existing policy benefits too – some have a little bit of Professional Indemnity Insurance or contract works cover thrown in. Its always best to speak to an adviser to obtain the best terms.
It is worth asking about all of these to see if a cheap public liability policy can be acheived.
Anyone who purchases or benefits from protection from Public, Products and Employers Liability Insurance policies should take note that, with effect from 31st July 2013 all Public, Employer’s and Product Liability bodily injury claims valued between £1,000 and £25,000 inclusive will be dealt with via an electronic portal. This is much like the portal that was introduced in the motor insurance field and will have a significant impact on the handling of these claims.
Why the change? The principle drivers behind this change are speed of resolution and the resultant reduction of costs as it seeks to reduce the disparity of third party costs which are commonly grossly disproportionate to the level of damages paid to the claimant. Some mat say inflated, in fact. All claims handled by the Portal are governed by a “pre-defined fixed cost” which will be much lower than the anticipated costs for claims handled outside the Portal, even for cheap public liability insurance policies.
How does it work?
Claims notification for all Employers Liability claims, the claimants third party solicitors will need to use the ELTO database to identify and ascertain who the relevant insurance company is – once discovered, claims should go directly to the Insurer.
For Public Liability and Product Liability there is no insurer database so there is a possibility that a PL CNF (Claim notification form) could
come to the policyholder/insured/ directly from a third party solicitor
If a policyholder receives a claim notification form they must:
- Contact the third party solicitor by email and acknowledge receipt of the CNF within 24 hours
- Notify their insurer and their Broker, within 24 hours
- The timescales under the Ministry of Justice scheme require swift action – if they are not met a claim will be removed from the process and significant additional costs could be incurred. Therefore, policyholders and brokers , should act quickly and effect direct communication between the policyholder and insurer but ensure that your broker is copied in to all communications so they can continue to provide advice and guidance in the usual manner.
Those policy holders who have chosen to compare public liability insurance and have used differing insurers, should contact both for the avoidance of doubt if a policyholder is unsure of which part of a policy a potential claim would be covered by.
It has emerged that on 3rd December 2012 an unnamed 22 year old broke his left ankle and wrist, two vertebrae, fractured his pelvis and tore ligaments in the incident in Highbury, North London. The trainee employee suffered multiple fractures in an eight-metre fall from a roof and as a consequence The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) prosecuted Nature’s Power on 7th August, after identifying a number of safety failings by the company., according to a report in HPV online. It is not clear if any employers liability insurer is involved.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that, as part of installation work for a wood-burning stove, the firm had been fitting a flue liner down the chimney. While balanced at the top of the access ladder against the house, the trainee was attempting to slide together an extendable roof ladder. Following the Health & safety Executive investigation, it was found that the access ladder was not long enough to clear the guttering and therefore did not extend to a point where he could step off safely. It pulled him off the access ladder when the roof ladder began to slip away in his hands and there was nothing for him to hold on to help him regain his balance, he fell three storeys causing serious injuries.
It was reported Nature’s Power, who are based in Rickmansworth, was found guilty in absentia of two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay a further £5,840 in costs. Keith Levart, an HSE inspector, said: “It was clear the access ladder had been used unsafely and that Nature’s Power had failed to plan the work properly, taking into account the specific issues that arose from using that site. “If used correctly, access and roof ladders can provide safe access to chimneys. However, this one could not clear the guttering, which led to this entirely preventable incident and a trainee worker suffering serious injuries. It is only a matter of good fortune that these injuries were not fatal. There is no shortage of advice and information about safe use of ladders. Where necessary, there is ancillary equipment available such as adjustable ladder stays, and straps for securing it to the building.”
It is common knowledge that cheap plumbers liability insurance is available that caters for employers liability which, apart from motor insurance is the only compulsory policy applied in law as of writing. Information on safe working at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls.
In an amazing twist, Niddry Castle Golf Club agreed a deal at the eleventh hour after it was apportioned 80% of the liability by Scottish appeal courts in relation to the injury of a player. It was reported by Insurance Dealer and insurance publications in May that both parties were awaiting a response from the Supreme Court on whether it would consider the case, but an out of court agreement has now been reached, Post has again reported.
This story started as a result of an injury to Anthony Phee, who was struck by a golf ball of another golfer, James Gorden, at Niddry Castle Golf Club. The first hearing accepted that there was at least one shout of “fore” from Mr Gordon to warn Mr Phee, but awarded £397,000 to the injured golfer, with split liability – 70% to Gordon and 30% to the club.
Niddry Castle Golf Club appealed the decision, arguing that 30% liability was very unfair – but in a second hearing, the appeal court substantially reversed the liability of award, citing the club’s failure to erect warning signs and handing the golf club 80% of the liability, with the remainder of liability to Mr Gordon.
It is understood that the appeal to the Supreme Court has not yet been formally withdrawn, but officials present at the court have been informed of plans to do so by solicitors Simpson & Marwick, acting on behalf of the club. Simpson & Marwick also confirmed a settlement as been reached but declined to give any further details. The solicitors representing Mr Gordon, said the firm remained disappointed that no negligence would now be found on the part of Phee for his failure to respond to warning shouts. This could set a precedent.
The decision has also prompted the response by the Scottish Golf Union to recommend golf clubs give priority attention to general health and safety procedures and insurance arrangements in place. Individual golfers are also encouraged to carry specialist golfers insurance which, in some instances, can be purchased alongside a cheap public liability insurance policy or on a competitive high value home insurance policy
Andrew Torrance, the Chief Executive Office of Allianz, discussed today (20th May 2013) the results of their first quarter but added that, said liability insurance remains a real challenge as the insurance market is used to running (public and employers’) liability books at a combined operating ratio in excess of 100% and relying instead on investment to make up for underwriting losses. Effectively, historically insurance companies do not make any money from the products themselves but from the premiums they bring in that they reinvest.
As reported in Post today, Mr Torrance was quoted as saying “In this new interest rate environment, which I don’t believe will end any time prior to 2016, the market needs to get to grips with the idea that you have to be able to show underwriting profits on that [liability] line as well if you’re going to make a reasonable return on capital. Allianz has cut back its exposure on its “problematic” liability account, in which GWP (Gross Written Premiums- the premiums paid by policyholders) was down by 2.5% after registering rate rises between 8% and 9%. We see liability rates as being too low in the market, given the exposures and the claims inflation levels that are out there,” he said. Customers should still capitalise and take advantage of cheap public liability insurance.
Also reported was the (commercial) motor book of Allianz which apparently grew by 13% in Q1, despite the insurer registering a rate rise of 6.0% after. Andrew Torrance said he would like to keep growing in commercial motor following the same strategy that he claims has delivered the positive Q1 results: “We’ll deploy capital where we see opportunities for growth and take capital out of areas where there isn’t a profit opportunity.” So cheap fleet insurance still has an appetite with insurers where there is good risk management.
Mr Torrance also commented on the recent changes introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and said any benefits are unlikely to emerge until 2014 adding that the changes will facilitate lower premiums, which can be passed onto consumers for a range of policies including cheap minicab insurance.
He did criticise, however, the introduction of damaged-based agreements, by which solicitors are allowed to keep a pre-agreed percentage of the damages won in court if a claim is successful. “DBAs could potentially provide a funding source for spurious claims and it is a pity these changes have been introduced at this time. I wouldn’t be favour of that and neither would Allianz. Looking at it optimistically there can be a good outcome for policyholders, equally there is a chance the claims farming industry might reinvent itself,” he said.
According to a press release by Post on the 17th April 2013 the BBC’s primary insurers during the 40 years and could face sexual abuse claims of up to £30m as he was in their employ.
The report by Post said they had learnt through a Freedom of Information request that the insurers including RSA and Aviva were among the lead insurers for either employers’ or public liability for the broadcaster from the early seventies to 2006.
According to the a public police report and the NSPCC, Giving Victims a Voice, published earlier in the year, reported offences involving Savile at the BBC date from 1959 until 2006, when the final episode of Top of the Pops was recorded. Allegedly, the peak in offences was between 1966 and 1976.
Savile died in October 2011 aged 84. Operation Yewtree was launched in response to the broadcast of ITV’s Exposure programme on 4 October 2012, which detailed five women’s accounts of being sexually abused by the late Savile in relation to the filming of BBC programmes. All said they had been abused during the 1970s, with two incidents relating to Duncroft School in Staines and three occurring on BBC premises.
Post confirmed in their publication that Commercial Union Assurance Company [now Aviva] provided the BBC with not cheap public liability insurance for 24 years. Also, The insurer covered 55% of the broadcaster’s PL cover from 1971 to 1981 up to a limit of £1m. Its cover then changed to 49% of £5m for 1982 and 1984, before becoming 40% of £5m between 1985 and 1988.
Century Insurance, Royal Insurance Group, Sun Allianz & London Insurance Group and Phoenix Insurance Group who are all part of RSA (as is More Than) – also took a share in the Public Liability cover for 16 years between 1971 and 1988 – with each firm taking between 10% and 25% of the cover (see table). Cover started at £1m between 1971 and 1981 and then rose to £5m.
For 22 of the 40 years of Savile’s employment, the cheap Employers’ liability insurer was National Employers’ Mutual General Insurance Association (Allianz), which was on cover for 100% of an unlimited policy until 1986. In 1989 Commercial Union then took a 40% share in this policy, and from 1996 until 2009 Chubb became the lead insurer, with a policy limit of £15m.
Post report stated that an RSA spokeswoman said: “At various points over the last 40 years we have provided insurance for the BBC. We are unable to comment as to whether these policies will respond to any Savile claims.” A Lloyd’s spokesman said: “Individual policies are commercial arrangements between customer and underwriter. As Lloyd’s is a market, not a company, we don’t talk about specific policies.”
There will be uncertainty over any policy pay out as this will depend on policy wordings.
The Kiss Nightclub that suffered the tragic fire that cost the lives of two hundred and thirty five lives in Santa Maria in Brazil hopefully will nudge the nightclub and entertainment industry to wake up and reassess their own risk management and health and safety procedures. It is a shame that an event such as this is needed to prompt action, but if some preventable measures can be instigated as a result then this must be seen as a positive. All nightclub insurance policies will have endorsements ensuring strict risk management measures are in place, especially following surveys, which management would be foolish to ignore. Dark places, flashing lights, loud music and alcohol fuelled behaviour is a recipe for disaster and many, many places would have already been exposed to slip and trip claims on either there public liability insurance section or their employers liability insurance section. In addition, owners must ensure that there is provision on the policy for live entertainment or pyrotechnics for any claim to be honoured.
Other places of entertainment are not immune – many restaurants (especially themed restaurants) have live entertainment and little thought would be given to their restaurant insurance policy terms and conditions to see if there are exclusions. The same can be said of public houses and bars that have extended opening hours beyond midnight. All of these establishments must also consider the impact on their bar insurance or pub insurance polices of “bouncers” or door staff as there are huge public and employers liability issues attached to this area and insurers prefer that external security staff are used. If in doubt, always speak to your insurance broker.