The importance of fire risk assessments

A fire risk assessment must always be carried out for the premises that your business operates in. This is a legal requirement that comes under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This, along with your fire evacuation plan, forms the foundations of your business’ fire safety.

What is a fire risk assessment?

In simple terms a fire risk assessment is an assessment of your premises, the activities that take place on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in or around the premises. It will include the possible sources of ignition, fuel, current firefighting provision and the ability of those inside to escape from their workplace safely. Once this has been done, it will, if done correctly, highlight what improvements are required to your current fire safety procedures.

Fire risk assessments are often overlooked by businesses, leading to employees being put under unnecessary risk because they are unaware of the danger and hazards surrounding fire safety and what they should do in the event of a fire.

Rule number 1.

It must be reviewed regularly. It is recommended that the review is carried out every twelve months from the date of the original assessment, with a full, brand new assessment being carried out every five years. If the layout, purpose of the building or if the nature of the occupants has changed substantially, a new assessment would also be required. This is because changes to the fabric or use of the building can alter any fire safety measures currently in place.

Rule Number 2.

You must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment if your business has 5 or more people. We would always recommend having a written fire risk assessment no matter how many employees you have. There are a couple of exceptions in which a fire risk assessment MUST be written down, even if there are less than five people. These are if the premises requires a licence or if the fire brigade have instructed you to do so following a visit.

Rule Number 3.

The Fire Risk Assessment MUST record the main findings and any actions that are required following the inspection and assessment. The first part of the fire risk assessment is the review itself, and this will assess the fire safety of the premises against a number of specific points. The second part takes the form of a list of recommendations. It is vitally important to act upon the recommendations you are given for your building because this is ultimately what will keep you, your employees and your business safe.

If you do not have a fire risk assessment carried out for your building or don’t follow any recommendations made and put these into place, the penalty could be severe fines or in extreme cases of negligence, a custodial sentence.

Is your business safe?

If you would like further advice, please contact our Health and Safety Team on 01302 341 344.


By Aaron MoxamRisk Services Assistant

Are you really covered for flood?

As the dark nights draw in and the golf clubs are stored away for winter, we are already feeling the cold and getting used to the rainy days. Many of us will remember the floods in June 2007 which caused huge problems and hard work for businesses across the region and were of course very costly for insurers, but are you prepared in case it happens again?

Our Broking Director, Beverley Brown, has worked extremely closely with insurers to explain where work on flood defences has been carried out in order to improve the offering of flood cover by insurers, particularly in Sheffield’s Lower Don Valley. Following this work, Insurers are more willing to accept risks in areas which previously suffered flood losses, usually with a higher excess, although unfortunately that is not necessarily the case for everyone, particularly for businesses still seen to be in ‘black’ flood zones. These zones used by insurers do not only refer to flooding from the rivers but also surface water flooding which we are seeing more often due to the heavy downpours we are experiencing.

For those with flood cover, you may assume that in the case of an actual flood, insurers will automatically pay your claim. You do however have to be aware of several conditions you must comply with or exclusions to be aware of if you do require a policy to respond and I strongly recommend you check or ask your broker for advice.

A couple of examples that are included in most of the standard property or combined policies are as follows:

If you have a lot of stock stored at one of your premises there is usually a condition called ‘Stillage Condition’ which requires the business to raise stock a certain height off the ground.

Another example is that many standard property policies exclude damage by flood to fences, gates and possibly most importantly, moveable items in the open. There may be others that are relevant to your business and it is important to make sure you know what you are covered for.

For those without flood cover, it is difficult to obtain cover without moving to a lower rated insurer which could mean your whole portfolio may suffer. However, it is important to ask your insurer if they will consider cover with a much higher excess, as in some circumstances it is possible to purchase separate insurance cover for the flood excess you have accepted. Otherwise, risk management within your business is important and consideration of which floor your server room or electrical items are stored, for example, can help limit the impact of any damage.

To speak to us about flood cover for your business, you can call 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Rachel Storey Dip CIIAccount Executive

Employment Legislation Updates for early 2020

With the end of the year fast approaching, we felt it was a good time to look forward into 2020 and what changes we can expect.   

Employment Contract Law 

From the 6th of April 2020, changes to the law relating to employment contracts will require Employers to provide greater detail in worker’s Contracts of Employment and to issue them earlier in the process. 

Currently, a statement of terms and conditions’ concerning employment details should be issued within 8 weeks of an employee’s start date.  From April 2020, you will need to issue contracts from day one of employment, regardless of the length of the contract and to all workers, not just employees. 

From April 2020, you will need to include: 

  • Details of any benefits 
  • Details of training requirements 
  • Details of paid leave and statutory leave 
  • Sickness Absence Terms 
  • Pay terms 

Break in Continuity of Services  

At the moment, a gap of one week or more is sufficient to break continuity of service (except for various situations where legislation dictates that continuity is preserved for a longer period such as redundancy and incapacity dismissals). The government has committed to increasing the gap requiredto break continuity of service, to four weeks, making it easier for employees with irregular working patterns to accumulate continuity of service. 

Holiday entitlement  

Under the Working Time Regulations, workers with irregular hours have their entitlement calculated  using a 12-week average. However, from 6th April 2020, holiday entitlement should be calculated based on the last 52 weeks (or the total number of weeks worked so far).  

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 

A further change is expected from April 2020 – the introduction of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act.  This will give all employed parents a day one right to 2 weeks leave if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.  Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to them meeting the eligibility criteria.   

Employers should start to consider these changes now and make the necessary changes to policies and procedures. 

If you would like further advice in any area of HR, please contact our HR Consultancy Team on 01302 341 344.


By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPD HR Business Partner

Back to the Future – Electric Vehicles

With the rise in fuel prices and the negative environmental impact associated with traditional fuels, such as petrol and diesel, electric cars are certainly a responsible choice for the environment.

The UK Government has committed to reducing emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, under the Climate Change Act. And, according to the independent Committee on Climate Change, a switch to alternatively-powered vehicles could play a major part in helping the UK meet these targets.

As an incentive, the government is offering plug-in grants of up to £3,500 to help drivers purchase brand new low-emission vehicles. The 2017 car tax band overhaul means electric vehicles (EVs) under £40,000 are also the only new cars exempt from paying road tax.

However, there are a number of implications you should be aware of in terms of the practicalities of insuring EVs.

  1. Not all insurance companies offer electric car insurance and you may have to switch insurance providers.
  2. You may find that as electric cars are quite new, they are still classed as specialised. This means they have specialised parts, which can be expensive and require specialised mechanics to repair them if they break. Unfortunately, this is something that may increase your insurance premium.
  3. There is an increased risk of collisions, as electric engines make little to no noise, so pedestrians and other road users may not hear the cars approach.
  4. Another issue is the battery, are these owned or leased from the manufacturers? A few manufacturers initially only sold their new electric vehicles with the option of leasing the car’s batteries. This gave the peace of mind that, if the car’s battery were to drop below 75% of its original capacity, the manufacturer would replace it for free. However, it also significantly increases complexity around insurance. For example, if you were involved in a collision and the car’s battery is damaged, it is unclear whether the driver or the manufacturer would be responsible for replacing it.
  5. There are also issues around charging EVs, as the cars need to be plugged in with cables for long periods, often from roadside charging points. In this case, the driver owes a duty of care to members of the public that could trip and injure themselves on the charging cable. Some policies may not cover this as standard.

Vehicle technology is ever improving, there is already news of wireless induction charging. Once the vehicle technology becomes more mainstream, maintenance, parts and insurance are likely to decrease.

In short, the best things about electric cars are low running costs, ease of driving and the clean conscience that comes from going green.

On the down side, they are expensive to buy, and longer-term reliability is unproven. They also have a comparatively limited range – and even using a rapid or fast charger takes a lot longer than filling up with fuel.

Drivers simply need to be aware that there are some major differences to traditional motor policies when researching insurance for electric vehicles and understand that EV insurance policies are still evolving.

If in doubt, it is always worth speaking to ProAktive to make sure your EV insurance policy will provide you with effective cover.

By Samantha Geddes Cert CIICommercial Account Handler



Cyber Crime – can one policy cover me for everything?

Cyber Crime is on the rise and encompasses all manner of incidents from theft of data through to denial of service attacks and even loss of money through socially engineered means. All these incidents can be very serious to a business, however which should you be most worried about and can one policy provide cover for everything?

The three main areas of risk you need to consider are cyber, data and crime.  Each company is different and so certain threats can be more serious to one business than to another.

1. If you are a business that is wholly dependant on your systems to work or sell goods through your website, then any interruption due to a cyber-attack or crypto blocking virus (one that locks you out of your system) could be very serious as you would be unable to trade and so may see a loss in profits.

2. If you are a business that has a lot of data, then a breach (be it maliciously or innocently) can cause you to face financial penalties or see a loss in reputation.  This again could ultimately lead to a loss in profits.

3. If you are a business that sends large payments on a regular basis then being caught out by a phishing email or a fake president scam (being tricked into innocently sending money to a criminal) could be disastrous and could lead to a large financial loss.

The good news is all three of these risks can be covered by insurance but only the first two would be picked up under a cyber and data policy.  The third risk would be covered via a crime policy.  Just because a crime is committed via cyber means does not mean that it would automatically be picked up under a cyber and data policy.

If you are unsure what your main risks are, or would like to talk further about policy covers, please contact ProAktive.

By Peter Ryder ACIIAccount Executive


Safe Systems of Work

Many companies have risk assessments covering their work activities. It is a legal requirement to do so and it’s the first port of call when an incident occurs, but is it enough? Even if your employees have read the risk assessments and have signed to say they have understood, will you be deemed to have done enough if further action is taken as a result of the incident?

The answer is not clear cut and that is because risk assessments are complex documents and can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for employees.

What can you do?

What we are seeing in abundance recently is the reliance upon safe systems of work in both criminal prosecutions and personal injury claims. A large percentage of accidents occur due to lack of or failure in systems of work.

What is a safe system of work?

A system of work is a set of procedures according to which work must be carried out. Employees should be involved in the process of creating the safe system of work and they should set out in detail, the correct method for carrying out an activity. This can then be documented and used as part of the training procedure for employees undertaking this activity. Without a set method for carrying out a task safely and a recognised procedure in place to deal with non-routine processes, the threat of mistakes being made is high.

Why is it important to develop safe systems of work?

Safe systems of work ensure that all the steps necessary for safe working have been anticipated and implemented and are designed to reduce human error. They prevent situations where workers attempt to cut corners, rush through a task or take unnecessary risks, reducing the likelihood of accidents occurring.

For employers, devising safe systems of work, and providing training to ensure they are carried out effectively, will not only help to prevent accidents occurring in the first place but will help to defend prosecutions should accidents occur by providing evidence of the steps taken to ensure safe practices. With fines having increased 450% since the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in 2016, taking the time to proactively strengthen your safety systems is crucial, and developing safe systems of work is a key part of this.

Are safe systems of work required by law?

Whilst there is no specific requirement for documented safe systems of work to be implemented there are areas in all health and safety legislation that would be difficult to adhere to without them.

Under Section 2(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974, employers must, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide and maintain systems of work that are practical, safe and without risks to health.

Many regulations made under the HSWA require that workers are given appropriate information and instruction on how to work safely.

Employees also have a legal duty under the HSWA to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and co-operate with their employer by following any safe systems of work that are in place.

In prosecutions by the HSE, there is a phrase that is used time and time again: ‘Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.

Are yours in place?

If you would like some further advice please contact the health and safety team on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Managing Drug and Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

Did you know that research conducted by the CIPD highlighted that drugs and alcohol are contributory factors in 26% of all workplace accidents? With that in mind would your managers, supervisors or directors know how to effectively and safely deal with an employee that was suspected or found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work?

First thing’s first. What are your responsibilities as an employer? Seems like a simple question however, as an employer, you have a responsibility to look after your employee’s well being as well as providing them with a safe working environment. You also must consider that employers are acting illegally if they knowingly allow drug or alcohol related activities to occur at work, specifically if:

  • an employee under the influence of excess alcohol is knowingly allowed to work
  • controlled substances are produced, supplied or used on an employer’s premises
  • drivers of road vehicles and transport system workers are under the influence of drugs while driving or unfit through drugs while working

As an employer you are therefore expected to walk the fine line between supporting employees if they are struggling with substance abuse (especially as some of the symptoms of long term misuse of drugs and alcohol could be classed as a disability) yet maintaining a safe environment for the rest of your employees, whilst staying on the right side of the law. When considering supporting an employee it is important to remember that the misuse of these substances is often associated with underlying issues including mental ill health and therefore can be complex situations to tackle.

As this is an employment blog we always recommend starting with a policy. Your Drug and Alcohol policy should outline:

  • your responsibilities as the employer
  • the standards you expect from your employees
  • what, if any, testing regimes you employ within the business
  • what disciplinary action may occur on failing or refusal of a test

With a policy in place, it is important to share this with your employees, and ideally have them sign to say they have read and understood it, which is important when it comes to dealing with issues later on.

What to do when you suspect an employee is under the influence at work?

It’s difficult to prescribe a one size fits all approach, however some fundamentals include trying to tackle it informally and discretely if possible. It’s important not to ignore the issue so calling them into an informal meeting is a good start. If you are on a safety critical site or their role involves driving or using heavy machinery you may want to consider sending them home on full pay while you investigate.

If you do decide to send them home, do not let them drive home themselves and assist in finding them an alternative method of transport.

If you have a testing regime, then now would be a good time to follow through and utilise it. Although testing can be carried out by an employer, tribunals usually prefer to see an external third party conduct the testing. This carries with it the questions of how quick can your third-party provider get out to conduct the testing and how quickly can they get the results back to you?

It’s important to remember that even if an employee fails a drug and alcohol test it does not necessarily mean that a tribunal will support it being a fair dismissal. You still have to go through your disciplinary procedure, and you would be expected to demonstrate how their performance would be impacted to enough of a level that warranted dismissal.

This blog barely scratches the surface on this topic so if you would like some further advice please contact the employment team on 01302 341 344.

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








Unpredictability – the new normal

Business resilience is the key issue firms are grappling with when faced with increasingly large & unpredictable business interruption & supply chain risks. How resilient is your business if the worst happens? Whether it’s a flood on the other side of the world, a fire at a supplier’s premises or a major cyber-attack, business interruption claims can stop a business in its tracks. As companies become more reliant on technology & global supply chains, they have become more vulnerable to disruption, which can threaten their very existence.

From a global perspective, natural catastrophes have emerged as a key driver of business interruption losses. According to the World Economic Forum, disruptions to the production & delivery of goods & services due to environmental disasters have increased by nearly a third since 2012 – reflecting the impact of climate change & global supply chains.

The growing importance of intangible assets is also a key issue. An incident can damage or disrupt the use of an intangible asset, such as data, intellectual property or a company’s brand, but such damage is hard to quantify & insurance cover not always clear. Cyber is a significant exposure – businesses are increasingly dependent on technology & data, which are susceptible to human error, technical flaws & security issues.

Increasing levels of dependency are also becoming a factor. Supply chains are increasingly complex & concentrated. This is particularly evident is some areas of manufacturing – for example cars, where around 30,000 individual parts from thousands of suppliers are used to build a single car. A fire at a US magnesium plant in 2018, for example, disrupted the operations of five different manufacturers – the parts were so specialised the firms did not have effective back-up options.

Maintaining supply chains is becoming more challenging in today’s unpredictable political environment. Tensions in the Middle East & Asia threaten key trade routes, with tankers & container ships being attacked, but closer to home, Brexit has huge implications for UK/EU cross border supply chains. Many UK firms are maintaining stockpiles of key supplies, whilst lengthy delays at UK ports will affect the delivery of components & production capacity.

Problems can be quick to arise, but it takes longer for businesses & supply chains to recover. Longer periods of disruption are evident in business interruption claims where periods of indemnity now commonly need to be 24 or 36 months, up from the more standard 12 months we have seen historically.

As supply chains have become more important, firms have been investing in risk management, supply chain management, business continuity planning & crisis management. Despite this, business interruption incidents continue to happen & many organisations struggle to recover. Too often business continuity plans reveal serious shortcomings – many firms do not have a written business continuity plan &, even if one is in place, it may not have been tested. The number & complexity of business interruption & supply chain incidents suggest that firms need to do more to improve their resilience. Business continuity planning is important, but wider business resilience with a focus on risk management & “what-if” thinking is needed if businesses are to prosper in an increasingly unpredictable & volatile world.

By Beverly Brown FCII, Chartered Insurance BrokerGroup Broking Director

It’s nothing to do with Brexit

There was a time when insurance premiums followed a well-trodden cycle. Premiums would decrease based on competition and then a ‘hard market’ would follow (broker speak for rapidly rising premiums: 20%, 50%, 100%, 200% – big numbers) as a result of insurance companies desperately trying to get more money into the pot. It’s a time when brokers tell their clients that their renewal premium has risen by just 50% but not to worry, it could have been much worse!

The root cause of this problem is simply GCSE economics – the market forces of supply and demand.

But over the last 10 years the cycle has disappeared, or so we thought. Premiums remained static (or fell slightly) as competition was rife. We cautioned clients that the dam would break at some point, but they didn’t. We began to wonder if the algorithms and financial models used by insurers had developed to a point where losses could be accurately predicted and premiums set accordingly. So, had the cycle of the hard and soft market disappeared?

Afraid not. The bad news is the hard market is back, but only for some sectors. Professional Indemnity has seen the biggest impact.

The Grenfell disaster sent shock-waves through the insurance market. Any business engaged in the design and build sector is seeing significant increases in premiums allied to restrictions in cover. Small increases for some – “just 20% but not to worry, it could have been much worse” – up to 100% for others. The worst pain being reserved for those involved in the design, specification or installation of cladding, particularly to high rise buildings. The fire is now spreading; Professional Indemnity cover for solicitors is seeing similar rising premiums.

So, will the fire spread further? It’s difficult to predict. It’s all about supply and demand. When insurers see losses mounting in one country they tend to deploy their limited capital in another country where returns are better. It’s a vicious circle; losses mount, capacity reduces and premiums increase.

There is of course one silver lining; when premiums rise so steeply, profitability is quickly restored, capacity is returned to the market and once again competition amongst insurer serves to drive down premiums. The return of that well-trodden cycle? Perhaps.

So, what can you do to alleviate the problem? What can we do between us to alleviate the problem?

Well, two things really. Plan ahead. We will guide you through the process at the earliest opportunity. Forewarned is forearmed. But that aside, the message is the same as ever. Those who claim less, pay less. A lot less in a hard market. “It’s only a 25% increase but don’t worry, it could have been worse” is the kind of message we deliver for those who ‘claim less’. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound great but the alternative message is not worth repeating.

Managing your risk can take many forms. From managing safety, to checking contract conditions, to managing culture. The list is endless. Whatever it is, be proactive.

Talk to us now. We can’t stop the cycle of hard and soft markets but we can alleviate some of its worst excesses.

Oh, and one last thing, it’s nothing to do with Brexit.

By Ian Laycock FCIIChartered Insurance Broker – Group CEO

Be proactive and audit your workplace

Do you use accident statistics to judge your health and safety performance?

Accident statistics can provide a good indication that you’re on the right track. Low accident rates are good! Analysing trends over time can show where you may have problems and allows you to implement measures to correct them. However, there is a problem with using accident statistics to measure performance: It’s a reactive measure and cannot change what has already happened.

So, what can we do to prevent incidents before they occur?

One of the best ways of measuring health and safety performance is to look at what you’re doing now. Auditing is a proactive method to measure your performance which can be very effective in improving health and safety standards. Auditing may sound complicated, but it can be proportionate to your workplace’s requirements. There are different types of auditing and here’s a few examples:

  • Safety tours are a simple walk around your premises noting areas for improvement or good performance. They can be long or short depending on time constrains and can cover the whole premises or just a small portion. Where possible problems can be resolved at the time or noted for later action.


  • Health and safety inspections sound a little more formal but are really a safety tour where we create a more detailed report. Again, areas for improvement and good performance can be recorded. Photos can be used with a short description, action points, who is nominated to complete the action and by when. This is a great way of providing information in a format that is easy to digest.


  • Health and safety audits are more formal yet. They can cover all areas of your business, including health and safety policies, risk assessments, work procedures and other documentation etc. Audits can be tailored to your business requirement and be specific to your industry. Generally, a formal report with recommendations for improvements is created.  These may be carried out in-house by your own staff or you can enlist the help of ProAktive – Auditing is normally built into the service we offer our clients.

Auditing can be carried out by individuals or teams and be carried out on a planned cycle to cover all areas of your business. An effective auditing programme can involve all of your employees and is a great way of getting employees involved in health and safety.

Auditing does not necessarily require a lot of training, however attending a training course, such as the IOSH Managing Safety course, is ideal to provide background information and the skills required for carrying out simple audits in your workplace.

Whichever type of auditing you choose to carry out, auditing provides a proactive way to measure your performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Don’t forget to praise good performance as this is a great way of encouraging employees to work safely and can help to improve the overall health and safety culture in your workplace.

If you would like more information or some help you can contact us on 01302 341 344 or -0114 243 9914.

Ainslie Johnson Grad IOSHRisk Consultant