HSE following through on strategy

At the beginning of the year we wrote a blog outlining the HSE’s strategy for 2017. The majority of that article focused on how the HSE were focusing on the health of employees, including Occupational Stress and Health, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Occupational Lung Disease.

We are now starting to see some serious fines being delivered to companies who fail to adhere to the HSE standards specifically when it comes to the above priorities. 

In May, Barroerock Construction Limited were fined £750,000 and ordered to pay additional costs of £14,874.68 after pleading guilty to two offences of breaching regulations when it came to the management of Asbestos substances during construction.

More recently on the 11th July an engineering firm was fined for failing to control the risk to employees using hand held power tools from Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Regulations 6(1) and 8(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

This company was found responsible for injuries to an experienced worker and a 20 year old apprentice by failing to control the risks associated with vibration. The HSE inspector said “The Company also failed to ensure workers were looked after when symptoms did arise leading to further exposure. This was wholly inadequate, and led to two employees suffering significant health effects”. The fines for these breaches came to £120,000 and ordered to pay £7,241.

It’s also important to remember there will be additional costs on top of this due to damaged reputation, replacing injured workers and liability claims, leading to increased insurance premiums.

If you would like any more information on managing these risks or any other Health & Safety topics please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – Health & Safety Manager

Share

Business Interruption – It’s not just your own premises you need to worry about!

As you may know, the intention of Business Interruption cover is to put your business back into the trading position it enjoyed before a loss (fire, flood , storm etc.) once the damage has been repaired & the business is back up & running. This can take many months, if not years, & it is important therefore to have an indemnity period (the length of time over which your cover will operate) that will allow the business to fully recover its trading position to its pre-loss level.

However, losses that directly affect your premises are not the whole story. Your business can be affected by losses that occur elsewhere, which you can also insure. Here are just a few to think about:

  • Losses at customers’ or suppliers’ premises

If you are dependent on a particular customer or supplier, whether in the UK or overseas, a loss at their premises could have a significant impact on your ability to trade. Cover is available on a specified or non-specified basis for customers & suppliers.

  • Failure of supply – e.g. gas, electricity, telecommunications

A failure of power to your business will significantly affect your ability to produce goods or otherwise continue to trade. Cover is available for losses that arise from losses at the supply undertaking’s premises or on a wider basis for anything that affects supply to the terminal ends at the point of entry to your premises.

  • Denial of access

If property is damaged in the vicinity of your premises it could have a significant impact in preventing or hindering the use of or access to your premises.

  • Loss of attraction

If property within the vicinity of your premises suffers a loss it may result in a diminished attraction to customers that would have otherwise visited the area & your business. This is particularly applicable to retailers who may benefit from footfall due to a big name store being nearby.

  • Act of competent authority (e.g. bomb threat)

Cover is available for denial of access to your premises even when there is no physical damage to any property – for example if the police close the roads due to a bomb threat or other incident in the area

  • Loss at a location where your property is stored

Cover is available to indemnify you if you suffer a loss of profit following a loss at a third party premises where your property is being stored

  • Loss at a contract site

If a significant proportion of your turnover is derived from a particular site, cover is available to protect your income from a loss at that site

  • Loss in transit

Cover is also available for loss of profit following damage to property in transit

It is important that you consider the impact of any/all of these scenarios when deciding on the right business interruption cover for your business. We at ProAktive can help you review your existing cover & make sure it meets the needs of your business. Please contact a member of the team if you wish to discuss in more detail.

By Beverley Brown FCII MBA – Broking Director & Chartered Insurance Broker

Share

Credit Insurance: Supporting your cashflow

The majority of businesses insure their physical assets, so why do so many businesses not insure their cash? Unpaid invoices can represent a significant proportion of  businesses assets yet many companies choose not to buy Credit Insurance.

Credit Insurance has been around since the late 19th century and yet so many companies are either not aware that it exists or choose to take the risk. Credit insurance will replace the cash of a bad debt caused by a customer’s insolvency or payment default following the sale of goods or services provided on credit terms.

There are various cover options available although the main types are Whole Turnover and Key Clients. Insurers use a variety of credit rating agencies to monitor company performance and this analysis forms the basis of the credit limits they will allow for your customers. If Insurers don’t offer you the full amount of credit applied for there is usually a good reason for their decision, which may make you question if you would want to be offering your customer a particular level of credit?

The policy covers customer insolvency and protracted non-payment and often insurers will allow you an element of discretion for smaller customers based on your trading experience. Additionally, policies will usually pay up to 95% of the outstanding amount should a claim occur.

The level of credit insurance is usually agreed at the start of the policy. However, insurers are flexible and understand that your business can change substantially over a year. Most insurers have a facility for you to choose your credit limits throughout the year as your customer base changes. Often credit insurance is supported by an online facility which ensures decisions are made quickly.

As well as vital protection against the effects of bad debt, credit insurance can also benefit your company in a number of ways:

  • Fast replacement of working capital
  • Greater access to finance facilities
  • Supports your credit management/control procedures
  • Business Development
  • Supplier Relationships
  • Increased information on your customers
  • No need for bad debt reserves
  • Peace of mind

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has recently revealed that £4 million is paid out per week in credit insurance claims in the UK alone!

If you would like to discuss this area of insurance in more detail with one of our Account Managers, you can reach us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Andy Morley – Group Managing Director

Share

Grenfell Tower disaster – free cladding checks available

Following the terrible disaster that happened at Grenfell Tower on 14th June, you will have probably noticed that the coverage in the press and television continues to be extensive. Fires are complicated things and the inquest into the exact causes of the fire and its aftermath are likely to take some time to deliver answers.

It is not the purpose of this update to make assumptions, however a lot of the coverage to date has been focussed on the Aluminium Composite Material cladding applied to the outside of the tower during a recent refurbishment. If you, as a landlord or property owner, are worried that your residential building might have similar cladding to that used at Grenfell Tower, the government has announced that free testing is available. Priority is being given, understandably, to buildings over six stories or 18 metres in height.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website can be found here and gives detail of how to access the testing facilities and an email address for queries. If nothing else, the provision of free testing of samples should either give peace of mind that no issue exists with your building or whether remedial action is required.

If you require any further advice on fire safety matters, whether it’s in residential properties or not, please do not hesitate to contact our health and safety consultants at ProAktive on 01302 341344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – Health & Safety Manager

Share

Hair today, gone tomorrow

In a bold move the construction firm Mears has banned construction workers on site from having beards, on the basis of this being a risk to their health and safety.

The health and safety in question involves the wearing of dust masks and whether having a beard impacts their effectiveness on keeping dust and other particles away from the face. 

There are some exceptions to the rule; a letter sent out to workers states that a goatee “may be acceptable so long as it doesn’t hinder the correct fitting of said dust masks’. Also if a worker can’t shave or wear a mask for medical or religious reasons, providing they supply sufficient proof (medical certificates or letter from place of religious worship), they can be excused from this rule.

Workers were informed of the decision by a letter and tool box talks have been delivered on site and this is now a Mears nationwide policy for the entire company. They are also taking a strong stance on this with anybody not adhering to the new policy being taken down the disciplinary route.

The firm has been criticised for rather than banning beards, or other forms of facial hair, they should recognise the diversity of their workforce and that other forms of respiratory protective equipment could be made available, which would allow the employee to have the protection they need without having to be clean shaven. In response to this Mears have stated that the health & safety of their workers is their priority.

It is unclear whether this stance will be adopted by other large construction companies and if it will start to impact on their subcontractors working on their site. This is something to keep an eye on other the next few months.

For further advice on Face Fit Testing or any other area of safety in the workplace, please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

Share

Terrorism – are you protected?

Over the past few months there has been no escaping the sad reality of the world we live in today.  Unfortunately stories of terrorist attacks are becoming a regular occurrence – but have you thought about what a terrorist attack could mean to you?

It is our natural instinct to protect our lives however possible but we shouldn’t forget about how terrorism could affect our belongings and investments. You may think that you and your business are protected by your insurance as standard when it comes to this type of risk, but many people are not aware that terrorism cover usually comes as an optional add-on to your insurance policy.

Following the 9/11 attack 16 years ago, whereby insurers are reported to have paid out a record $32 billion in claims, insurers started to restrict terrorism cover by introducing a specific exclusion in their policy wordings. This does vary between insurers but typically excludes ‘any loss, damage, liability, cost or expense of any kind directly or indirectly caused by, resulting from or in connection with, any act of terrorism’.

Whether this relates to your business or personal insurance, it is now your responsibility to cover yourself against the unforeseen risk of terrorism. You may suffer damage to your buildings and/or contents, not forgetting the disturbance it may cause to your business, also known as ‘business interruption’.

If your property has a mortgage it is important to check if you are required to have terrorism cover. Many lenders often make this imperative in the agreement and if not adhered to you would not only be uninsured but also in breach of the contract.

You can protect your property at an economical cost, so please feel free to ask us for a no obligation quotation or for any further advice.

By Molly White – Commercial Account Handler

Share

Political Activity in the Workplace

It feels like we’ve had a run of elections and votes to consider over the last year and with the result from last month’s snap election there is a chance that we (Theresa) may be called upon again in the not so distant future. This all raises the question of what you consider as acceptable when it comes to employees engaging in political activities in the workplace.

It’s important to realise that political opinions can be one of the most divisive topics, along with religion, and can lead to emotions and tempers running high. Younger and older generations often have differences in the way they vote which can cause conflict in the workplace. It is also likely that you may see differences, depending on how far up the ‘company ladder’ employees are, as to which party will receive their vote or what expectations they have from their government and local leaders. 

Some companies are now putting policies in place which outlines what they expect from their employees when it comes to politics. Examples include:

  • Prohibiting employees from campaigning, attempting to coerce others into holding particular political opinions and wearing political symbols.
  • Reminding employees of the company bullying and harassment policies.
  • Banning employees from putting up notices or leaving promotional political materials, such as leaflets, on company premises.
  • Using company resources (printers, photocopiers etc) to assist with political activity.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) stance on the matter of politics within the workplace is slightly grey. Although political opinions are not a protected characteristic under the equality act, religion and beliefs, including philosophical beliefs such as humanism, pacifism and atheism are protected. Therefore in 2009 the EAT stated that ‘support of a political party will not amount to a philosophical belief, but a belief in a political philosophy or doctrine may qualify’.

Whether or not you need to have a written policy in place, to manage the levels of political activity that your employees can engage in on your premises, is up to you. It is worthwhile to note that if anything was to arise where you needed to go down the disciplinary route, it would be a lot easier for you to implement if you could refer to a specific policy in your handbook.

For more information on implementing these types of policies within your business or for more information on how ProAktive can help with any other HR issues please contact our HR Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

Share

Rise in Vehicle Thefts

Over the last few months we have seen a dramatic rise in the amount of thefts of motor vehicles, in particular vans (Transit vans in particular) being taken in a number of fashions.

One of the biggest recent issues that private vehicle owners/business owners have to contend with, when it comes to vehicle security, is devices that allow access to vehicles without any forced entry.  Vehicle thefts often show no signs of visible forced entry (broken glass, drilled locks or alarm being triggered).  These thefts are being blamed on alarm immobilisers, jammer devices and a recent addition to the market – the skeleton key. 

The immobiliser/jammer is used similarly to the electronic key you use to close you own vehicle but it blocks the signal used to lock your vehicle; someone can just walk up to your vehicle and open it without forcing their way in.  Thieves are not just targeting vans and small commercial vehicles but also the high end motors, brands such as BMW and Audi.

However, the most concerning is the skeleton key, which I could purchase myself from Amazon right now for £20. Videos online show this device being used on a Transit van to open it without the original key.

Unfortunately, a lot of the vehicles are not recovered and if they are, there are usually parts missing, the engine has been removed or there are only a couple of pieces left to identify it.

3 tips from our Claims Team:

  1. Never leave your vehicle running, especially whilst it is unattended or unlocked
  2. Apply a steering wheel lock – even if entry is gained it is impossible to drive the vehicle away
  3. Do not leave tools in the van overnight – this may be an inconvenience on a daily basis but knowing how easy it is for thieves to gain access, is it worth the inconvenience of losing thousands of pounds worth of tools and equipment?

If you would like any further advice on this subject, please contact your Account Manager today on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Tom Spurr – Claims Technician

Share

Stress, Mental Health & Discrimination

It could be fair to say that most employers are getting comfortable with understanding how to manage and fairly treat physically disabled employees, providing reasonable adjustments and allowing them to continue their work on a level playing field. The caveat to this is that mental health is still a grey area for many employers due to the inability to look at someone and instantly tell whether or not they have a disability.

When it comes to employment, the term disabled or defining someone as disabled isn’t determined by a doctor or medical professional, it is determined by the law.

According to the Equality Act 2010:

‘A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantially adverse and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. In the workplace such activities are taken to include things like using a telephone or computer, interacting with colleagues, following instructions, driving and carrying everyday objects.’

To put this into context there is an interesting case to consider: Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Council, which was finalised at the end of 2016.

Some facts about the case are as follows:

  • Claimant was off work for three years with sick notes attributing absence to “stress at work”
  • After dismissal claimed that he had suffered direct discrimination on the grounds of disability.
  • When taken to Employment tribunal, the claim failed as they found that under the Equality Act he was not considered disabled under the criteria set out above.
  • At the Appeal this decision was upheld and they commented that the claimant’s stress was “very largely a result of his unhappiness about what he perceives to have been unfair treatment of him”

This sets up the conversation nicely for the differences between stress and mental illness disorders; in particular mood and anxiety disorders.

Stress is different to a disorder that would qualify someone to be considered disabled, in that there are usually definable environmental factors that are the cause. For example, you’re busy at work or you’ve fallen out with your family as two simple examples. When you take away this cause you are able to continue your daily routine without any symptoms.

This is different to mental health disorders where there can be numerous contributors to the illness, i.e. genetics, biochemistry, personality and environmental factors.

REMEMBER: people suffering with a mental illness or disorder, even without the environmental factors, will continue to suffer and be affected over a long period of time, and often indefinitely.

For employers this means that although care should be taken when dealing with employees who are signed off with stress (or refer to workplace stress on their sick notes) it isn’t always the sticking point within a disciplinary procedure that people believe it to be.

Advice:

  • Investigate the cause of this stress and not rely solely on the doctors or medical professionals, as stress, anxiety and depression are terms often used loosely.
  • Find out whether stress is caused by a singular event or scenario, or whether there are numerous factors that could indicate a mental disorder.

KEY POINT: If it is found that an employee faced direct discrimination in the workplace under any of the 9 protected characteristics, disability being one of these, then there is no cap on the settlement that can be awarded.

Disability claims:

  • Historically result in the highest awards with the average for 2015/2016 being £21, 729.
  • Often come with a higher ‘injury to feelings’ cost, as well as the loss of earnings being significantly higher; someone deemed disabled is more disadvantaged when it comes to finding their next employment.

With mental health awareness improving and the stigma attached hopefully continuing to decline, there will almost certainly be more case law to come in this area, so watch this space.

If you have any concerns that your policies and procedures do not reflect current best practice, or for any other employment advice, please contact our HR Consultancy Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

Share

Hot topic! Fire safety update

Last week a prosecution sparked interest as a custodial sentence was handed out without any actual harm occurring to any persons.

Mr. Sandhu, a former hotelier in Sheffield, was handed an eight month jail sentence after he admitted to breaching fire safety rules in 2014.

Mr. Amandeep Sandhu owned the Cutlers Hotel in Sheffield and was prosecuted by Yorkshire Fire and Rescue following an investigation in 2014 which found that at that present time, the hotel did not have a working fire alarm, ordering its closure while safety improvements were made.

At a second inspection three days later more fire safety law breaches were discovered; Mr. Sandhu had not carried out an adequate fire risk assessment and the hotel didn’t have the requisite fire detectors and alarms. Other breaches consisted of inadequate emergency lighting and hotel staff had not received adequate training.

Steve Helps, Head of Prevention & Protection, said, “We always try to work positively with businesses to comply with fire safety regulation, but this case is a stark reminder of the consequences of failing to comply with those laws. Had a fire broken out in these premises then there can be little doubt that lives would have been lost. The sentence handed down by the judge should serve as a warning to any business of how seriously breaches of fire safety law are taken.”

The current owners received approval from the fire services and all other regulatory authorities in order to operate the hotel once a full renovation took place and re-opened in September 2015.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, therefore a responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.

This ruling is a stark reminder that fire safety is such an important element to manage within all businesses and a failure to manage it properly can not just lead to hefty fines, but could result in custodial sentences for directors and business owners.

To speak to the Health & Safety team about fire safety in your business contact us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914 today.

 

Share