Winter is coming

We know Winter generally hits the North the hardest, but it doesn’t matter if you operate in the north or the south, we all can be affected.

Extremes of snow, ice and longer periods of darkness make driving in the Winter months more hazardous than in other times of the year.


Regularly check local and national weather broadcasts for the areas you intend to travel through. Avoid driving completely, unless you absolutely must make the journey and driving is the only option.

If you do decide to travel, let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive.


Ensure your vehicle is fit for winter conditions. Pay particular attention to the vehicle tyres (tread depth and pressure). Also ensure that the windscreen and windows are clean, wiper blades are in good condition and screen wash is topped up and complete with antifreeze. Also keep the fuel tank topped up as journeys may take significantly longer.


Normal speed limits are generally too fast for snow and ice conditions.

Excessive braking, acceleration, speed and steering will cause the car to slide, skid and spin.

  • Don’t brake on bends, slowdown before the bend or corner by getting into a low gear early and allow the speed to reduce slowly.
  • When braking, get into a low gear early and allow the speed to reduce slowly and use the brakes gently.
  • Keep a greater distance from the vehicle in front (up to ten times greater than normal) to allow time for smoother braking and steering.
  • Accelerate gently


A few extra items of kit in your car may help you escape the snow that is stopping you proceeding. Consider a shovel, snow socks / snow chains, tow rope, de-icing equipment and a torch.

Have an emergency kit in your car to help in situations where you can’t proceed. Consider a first aid kit, warm clothes / sleeping bag / car blanket, hazard warning triangle, emergency rations and a flask with a hot drink. Remember to stay in the vehicle but turn the engine off to prevent a build-up of fumes and conserve fuel.


Remember to keep your mobile phone fully charged to let people know where you are and to call breakdown services or the emergency services so that they can come and help you.


As business owners, it’s worthwhile having the above conversation with your staff to help keep them safe as they travel to and from work. How often do you check the condition of your fleet?

By Ian French CMIOSHRisk Consultant 

Mental Health in the workplace

Wednesday 10th October marked World Mental Health Day and this year there is a focus on young people and mental health in a changing world. Mental wellbeing remains at the forefront of the current challenges we face as a society and therefore as businesses.

The ‘Mental Health at Work’ Gateway, headed by the Duke of Cambridge, has recently been launched, where the charity MIND released the following statistics:

  • Only 2% of people would talk to HR about their mental health
  • 25% of people with mental health issues are left to cope in silence

At the Gateway event, two main factors were discussed to change culture when it comes to mental health in the workplace:

  1. Stop people feeling as if they have to hide.
  2. Make sure anyone with responsibility for others at work, knows what to do.

With this in mind, ACAS have produced a framework for positive mental health at work which outlines the responsibilities of Employers, Managers and Employees.

Employers should understand that it is their responsibility to:

  • Lead and embed a wellbeing strategy
  • Reduce stigma in the workplace
  • Tackle the causes of workplace stress
  • Support and train managers
  • Understand the impact personal issues can have on mental wellbeing

Managers need to be able to:

  • Build rapport with staff
  • Plan work with ‘people’ in mind
  • Handle difficult conversations effectively
  • Support work-life balance
  • Have confidence and knowledge in managing mental health

Finally, Employees should be able to:

  • Look after their own wellbeing
  • Use positive coping strategies
  • Identify personal stress triggers
  • Engage with their line managers
  • Take notice and support their colleagues

Ultimately the goal of the framework is to help businesses create an environment where employees feel safe to discuss any mental health issues without fear of prejudice or judgement. By following the framework, employees and managers alike can become more comfortable with discussing mental health openly and making adjustments – just like they would with a physical illness or disability.

By Jodi CoolingOperations Director and HR Consultant

Are your staff insured to drive their own vehicle?

Driving can be one of the most dangerous work activities that people can do. Research indicates that over 100 people are killed or seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone who is driving for work purposes. As an employer, you owe the same duty of care under Health & Safety Law to your staff that drive their own vehicles for work (often referred to as ‘Grey Fleet’) as you do to employees who drive company vehicles.

When was the last time you reviewed your Grey Fleet? 

A few things to consider:

  • you need a system in place to make sure that your employees understand that they are not allowed to use their own vehicle for either business use or occasional business use, e.g. going to the bank / Post Office etc, unless they have supplied a copy of their driving licence & insurance schedule confirming that their policy includes ‘business use on behalf of their employer’.
  • it is an offence to allow an employee to drive a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition for business purposes. Are you checking this?  It’s relatively straight forward to monitor company vehicles but it is much harder when a vehicle is owned by an employee.
  • conduct regular driving licence checks on all staff that drive for work; is their licence still valid? Have they received any points in the last 6, 12, 18 months?

Employees may believe that as their personal motor insurance provides cover for commuting to their usual place of work that it will them allow them to drive to multiple locations whilst at work.  This is not the case as personal motor insurance policies only provide cover for one permanent place of work. If an employee visits multiple locations, their policy needs to be extended to include business use. If the policy is not extended there will be no cover in place in the event of an accident.

How many of your employees are driving their vehicle without adequate insurance?

By Helen Parsons – Commercial Broking Manager

“Work alone is noble.” But is it safe?

Many employees often find themselves the only one left in the office at the end of a busy day or driving to see a customer alone. If this situation sounds familiar it is likely that your employees are lone working. If your employees work alone you are required to consider, and then deal with, any health and safety risks that this exposes them to.

It will often be safe to work alone. However, the law requires employers to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to do so.

Things you could consider to help ensure lone workers are not put at risk include:

  • assessing areas of risk including violence, manual handling, the medical suitability of the individual to work alone and whether the workplace itself presents a risk to them
  • requirements for training, levels of experience and how best to monitor and supervise them
  • making sure you know what is happening, including having systems in place to keep in touch with them

What types of job might require people to work alone? 

  • Working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop
  • People working on their own outside normal hours, e.g. cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff
  • Agricultural workers
  • Service workers, including postal staff, social and medical workers, engineers, estate agents, and sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises
  • Driving on company business

So what should you be doing?

Employers have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary. This must include:

  • Involving workers when considering potential risks and measures to control them. Many companies trust their employees and don’t want to appear as though they are checking up on them, however, if something happened how would you know?
  • Taking steps to ensure risks are removed where possible, or putting in place control measures, e.g. carefully selecting work equipment to ensure the worker is able to perform the required tasks safely.
  • Instruction, training and supervision. It is important that all employees understand the procedures in place for lone working that have been designed to keep them safe. For example, calling to check in every so often or locking the office door when staying late.
  • Reviewing risk assessments periodically or when there has been a significant change in working practice.
  • Being aware that some tasks may be too difficult or dangerous to be carried out by an unaccompanied worker, for example, working in confined spaces.
  • Where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, assessing the additional risks involved and making sure your employee will be safe in that situation. For example, social workers or an engineer visiting a person’s home.
  • When a risk assessment shows it is not possible for the work to be conducted safely by a lone worker, addressing that risk by making arrangements to provide help or back-up. Risk assessment should help employers decide on the right level of supervision.

What happens if a person becomes ill, has an accident, or there is an emergency?

Your assessment of the risks should identify foreseeable events. Emergency procedures should be established and employees trained in them. For example, it may be decided that mobile workers should carry mobile phones, personal alarms or first-aid kits.

If you’re concerned about your lone workers and need some advice, contact ProAktive on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Motor Claims Made Easy

Did you know that the longer it takes to notify a claim to your insurers, the higher the cost of that claim?

At ProAktive, we recognise the implications of late notification on the premiums you pay and have therefore launched our very own motor claims app. The app enables drivers to collect crucial information at the scene of an accident and notify us and you of the incident immediately. 

This will not only have a direct impact on the cost of your claims but it will make the claims process easier and smoother, giving your drivers a guide in a moment of potential uncertainty and stress.

The cost of fault claims can quickly escalate, this is illustrated in the table below, which is based on statistics provided by Allianz Insurance.

Day claim was notified Third party vehicle repair cost Third party hire charges Third party personal injury Total claim cost
Day 1 £1,500 £500 £3,000 £5,000
Day 5 £1,800 £1,700 £4,000 £7,500
Day 15 £2,600 £2,400 £6,500 £11,500
Day 30 £4,000 £7,500 £8,500 £20,000


The cost of these claims has a direct impact on your premiums. You can see from the above, that even if you only have a couple of fault claims a year, the cost could exceed £40,000 for relatively small incidents.

Our App will reduce paperwork and reduce the time that you spend on completing lengthy forms.

The advantages are:

  • No need for claim forms
  • Easy app-driven process for drivers
  • Faster incident reporting to ProAktive
  • Captures third party information
  • Records police & witness information
  • Accurate GPS, date and time automatically uploaded
  • Assists with reducing third party injury claims
  • Photographs can be easily uploaded to capture crucial evidence
  • Reduces the cost of third party hire charges
  • Recording information at the scene can prove more powerful when defending claims
  • No more old fashioned cab packs

Following the incident a full pdf report is emailed to the ProAktive Claims Team, who will then liaise with you regarding the reporting of the incident to insurers. We appreciate not all accidents involve a third party or require your insurers involvement, and therefore, we will always agree with you the appropriate course of action before speaking with insurers. The reports do not automatically submit to insurers meaning that you still control the process.

The app is easy to download and is compatible with both Android and iPhones. We can provide full training on the app to both you and your drivers.

For help in reducing your claims costs, please get in touch with your ProAktive contact who will be happy to arrange a demonstration.

Don’t ignore a claim – the sooner an accident is reported, the lower the claim costs, the better the result!

By Leah KendallAccount Executive


Sub-contractor or Employee? An insurance perspective

Most construction work these days is completed via the use of sub-contractors.  One reason for this is that it is not economical to have permanent staff and so workers are brought in on a temporary basis when required for a job.  It could also be specific specialism is required and so a specialist contractor would be brought in.  The main question to ask is, would a standard liability policy pick this up?  The simple answer is no.  When considering the use of sub-contractors, you also need to consider what type of contractors they are; bona fide or labour only.  If you don’t correctly disclose them to your insurer you could end up having to pay a much larger premium or worse still, find yourself not covered for a claim.  

It is important at the onset to work out and disclose what type of contractor you are using.

A labour only sub-contractor is classed as an employee by insurers because they don’t provide their own tools or materials, work under the direction of the main contractor and don’t carry their own insurance.   Insurers include labour only sub-contractors under the Employer’s Liability and Public liability sections and charge the same premium as an employee.

Alternatively, a bona fide sub-contractor normally works under their own direction, brings their own tools and materials and more importantly carries their own insurance.  Due to this, insurers do not class them as employees and provide cover under the Public Liability section only. Insurers charge a lower premium for the work carried out by the bona fide sub-contractors on the understanding that any claim caused by the sub-contractor would be passed back to them.

Consequently most liability policies include a condition that any bona fide sub-contractor must carry the same insurance cover as the main contractor.  If their insurance does not meet this condition then you may be responsible for any gap in cover and insurers may not pick it up.

In order to comply with a sub-contractor condition you not only have to check that a policy is in force but that it is also adequate for the type of work that is taking place.

There are a number of common problems related to this including:

  • The sub-contractor is undertaking an activity not disclosed to their insurer
  • Their insurance policy excludes specific high-risk environments
  • Their limits of indemnity are too low
  • Claims cost exclusions or limitations may apply – e.g. when working at depth
  • Their policy has lapsed
  • They have breached policy conditions resulting in no cover (such as work at height or depth which fall outside policy wording thresholds or failure to comply with specific methods of work such as ‘hot work’ conditions).

Should any of these situations happen and a claim occurs due to the negligence of the sub-contractor, the insurers may not deal with the claim and effectively leave you uninsured.

Should any of these issues affect you or you are looking for help or advice when using sub-contractors and the covers required, contact ProAktive on 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Peter RyderAccount Executive ACII, Chartered Insurance Broker



Employment Tribunals – A Brief Guide

This year has seen a huge increase in the number of employment tribunals (with a two fold increase in claims per quarter). The driver of this is likely to be the abolishment of tribunal fees in July 2017, following a successful case brought by Unite, questioning the legality of the government’s introduction of fees in July 2013.

As employees can now pursue a case to tribunal by following a prescribed process but without having to pay a fee, employees are pursuing employment cases more readily, therefore increasing the risks associated with managing employee issues.

Detailed below is some information about the tribunal system and what happens if an employee brings a claim against their employer:

Time Limits

There is a time limit of three months (unless exceptional circumstances) for an employee to bring a claim against their employer. This date relates to either the date of dismissal, or for unlawful deduction of wages claims, the date the alleged incorrect payment / deduction was made.

How does an employee bring a claim?

An employee must first contact ACAS to notify them of their intention to bring a claim. At this point they complete an ET1 form and submit this to the Central Office of Employment Tribunals. Before it becomes a tribunal claim, it enters an ‘early conciliation phase’ to see if ACAS can facilitate agreement or settlement before it is submitted as a case.

Early Conciliation

The first notification that an employer usually receives is contact from ACAS to advise that there is a claim and whether they wish to engage in early claim conciliation. Once early conciliation has started the clock is stopped in terms of the above time limit. 

During this period, you have a chance you discuss the issues with ACAS and to put across your version of events and both the employee and employer can put forward a solution, usually an amount they are willing to accept or offer in order to settle the issue before it reaches a court.

If both parties agree to a solution then ACAS will issue a COT3 form (ACAS settlement agreement), which is a legally binding enforceable contract which closes the matter.

If parties fail to come to agreement ACAS will issues an early conciliation certificate and the time limit restarts and an Employment tribunal claim can be brought.

Please note that if you have insurance, you should always advise your insurer at the point you receive ACAS contact.

Responding to a claim

If the employee makes a claim to the tribunal within the time limit, then you will receive a copy of the claim and should make your response on an ET3 form. This form will become a summary of your defence case so is an important document to consider. If you receive advice or have insurance in place, it is important to involve those interested parties at this stage.

Awards and Penalties

In April 2018 the basic award limits were increased in line with inflation increasing the maximum award for unfair dismissal to £83,682 (or an employee’s annual salary)

There are no maximum limits when it comes to a discrimination claim, with the maximum award so far being £1,762,130 with the average award for a discrimination claim sitting at around £25,000.

Employment tribunals are also able to impose penalties on top of any awards where there are ‘aggravating features’ to the breach, usually this is where they find that the employer has acted with malice. This penalty will normally be 50% of the award, up to a maximum of £5,000.

Defending a claim

If you are a ProAktive client it is important to include us as soon as possible in the process. We have a dedicated team of claims handlers, employment consultants and insurance experts to help you through the process. It is also important to gather any documentation and evidence which will help to support your defence and work with your respective legal team.

Preventing an Employment Tribunal

Ultimately the ideal scenario is never to have an employment claim issued against you. Although you can never control the actions of your employees, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk.

Firstly, make sure you have documented processes and procedures in place, both in the Contract of Employment and Employee Handbook and more importantly follow them.

For ProAktive employment clients your consultant will work with you to create bespoke documentation for your business as well as provide telephone support and advice. That leads to our second point, give us a ring!

Telephone support and advice is included in the service therefore we have a team of consultants who are able to talk you through any employment issues or queries you have within your business.

Finally, tackle the issues. Many employment tribunals could be prevented by tackling internal HR issues head on and before they escalate. Rather than let an employee become a ‘problem employee’ tackle their performance, put good probation or review practices in place and make sure managers and supervisors are trained in how to implement your HR policies.

To talk to our HR Consultancy Team about how we can help you tackle the HR issues within your business, contact us on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)Risk Services Adviser

Are your risk assessments up to the job?

Are your machinery risk assessments adequate? Failure to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessment can place your employees at risk of harm and leave your company vulnerable to prosecution.

Risk assessments are a legal requirement introduced by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. As well as being a legal requirement they are an essential tool to ensure the safety of your employees. 

Risk assessment is nothing more than a careful look at what could cause harm and what needs to be done to prevent harm. The Health and Safety Executive has sought to simplify the risk assessment process by breaking it down into 5 steps:

  1. Identify the hazards – what could go wrong?
  2. Who might be harmed and how?
  3. Evaluate the risk – What is the possibility of harm being done, what controls are in place and do you need to do more?
  4. Record your findings – You only need to make brief records of your significant findings.
  5. Review the risk assessment periodically or in the light of significant changes.

The 5 steps above should be followed but we also need to consider other legislation that will apply, for instance the, Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) which requires that equipment provided for use at work is:

  • Suitable for the intended use
  • Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate.
  • Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
  • Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices; suitable guarding that prevents access to dangerous parts of machinery, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices.

There is also other legislation that may apply for instance:

  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
  • The Pressure System Safety Regulations.
  • Display screen equipment.

While this may sound complicated, it need not be. Carefully considering what could go wrong while applying the requirements of PUWER (and other relevant legislation) should enable the completion of a machinery risk assessment.

Carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment proactively will protect your employees from harm. It should reduce machinery downtime – due to remedial changes having to be made following an accident­ – and save the costs associated with accidents in the workplace. Overall this should make you more productive and should save you money.

If you would like help with your risk assessments,  contact our team today on 01302 341 344.

By Ainslie Johnson GradIOSHRisk Consultant

Private Client: Laser drilled & filled diamonds

I recently read a comment on Linkedin from one of my connections which piqued my interest.  It was from a jewellery valuer who had been asked to re-value a pair of diamond stud earrings for insurance purposes.  On closer inspection he discovered the diamonds had been laser drilled and filled to enhance the quality without the knowledge of the owner.

What is laser drilling?

It’s a process using a laser to drill tiny holes (thinner than a strand of hair) in the stone, all the way from its surface to an inclusion inside.  This channel is then used to remove the inclusion by either melting it with heat or dissolving it with acid.  This process is used to improve the clarity of the diamond, quite often by one grade, however it comes with a warning.

By laser drilling holes into a diamond, the structure of the diamond is weakened and if numerous holes have been drilled this not only leaves channels but also an empty space where the inclusion was removed.  This may cause the diamond to crack or chip if knocked if bumped.

To fix the holes created by laser drilling there is a process where the holes are filled after its inclusions have been removed.  This is called fracture filling.

Jewellers fill the tunnels and cavities with a crystal substance, making the results of laser drilling even less visible.  Unlike laser drilling, however, fracture filling does not yield permanent result, and this is why it must be disclosed. Subjecting a fracture-filled diamond to heat or ultrasonic cleaning can destroy the crystal filling and damage the stone.

To avoid being sold a diamond which has been laser drilled or filled, you need to ask the jeweller to explicitly check if the diamond has been enhanced by this process.  Also ask to see the diamond under a microscope, which will allow you to see how many channels have been drilled, as this treatment has a marked detrimental effect on the value.

If you would like to discuss our Private Client service with us in finer detail, you can contact me on 07966 240530.

By Clare CarbyPrivate Client Manager



Why is Health and Safety leadership important?

The safest workplaces are those where H&S standards are set at a high level – from the very top right down throughout the organisation. You must lead by example and encourage everyone to adopt a safe and compliant attitude to working safely.

Why directors and board members need to act

Directors and boards need to examine their own behaviours, both individually and collectively, against the guidance given. 

Where you see that you fall short of the standards set by regulations & procedures, you need to change what you do to become more effective leaders in health and safety.

The health and safety of your workforce should be considered as a key business risk in board decisions. By risk profiling your business, you are protecting the safety and health of your employees and also members of the public who may be affected by your company’s activities. Be lead by risk and not by law.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the hazards?
  • Who can they harm?
  • How are we going to manage the risk?

This must become embedded within your organisation so that it becomes what you do and not a bureaucratic nightmare.

Essential principles of Safety Leadership

Strong leadership from the top should be visible to your staff, with an active commitment from the board. You can establish effective ‘downward’ communication systems and management structures, showing integration of good health and safety management within business decisions.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Talking to your staff
  • Taking an interest in their role
  • Asking them about what they are doing
  • Asking yourself how they can get hurt doing this
  • What do you need to make it safer?
  • Getting a commitment from employees to work safely
  • If you see employees working safely thank them (believe me, they will feel that you care about their safety)

Get your staff involved. It’s a great idea to engage your workforce in the promotion and achievement of safe working conditions. Providing good, quality training combined with the use of effective, ‘upward’ communication will work in your company’s favour.

Your assessment and review should involve:

  • identifying and managing health and safety risks
  • accessing (and following) competent advice
  • monitoring, reporting and reviewing performance

Addressing health and safety should not be a burden: it offers significant opportunities and the benefits include a safer workplace and fewer accidents. Employees who are healthier, happier and motivated will result in your business suffering lower employee absence and turnover rates.

By looking after all of this, you should see a reduction in costs to your business due to:

  • a reduction in the number of claims
  • a reduction in your liability premium
  • a reduced threat of legal action by enforcing authorities
  • an improved standing among suppliers and partners
  • a better reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities
  • an increase in productivity


By Ken Stevens CMIOSHRisk Services Manager