Attack of the drones

I have to pinch myself at times. When starting my ProAktive journey (2012 for the curious reader) the big tech topic on everyone’s lips was how a business can go ‘paperless’. Fast forward and I find myself writing about little flying robots.

On a serious note, it’s incredible the pace in which technology has developed. In such a short space of time advances made in AI, automation and Big Data look like game changers for a huge number of business sectors.

Drone technology is just one facet of this and whilst predominately marketed as a recreational item, its use in commercial enterprises is increasing – Nesta Foundation research for example, shows the number of commercial operators with permission to pilot drones in the UK has increased from 5 to 4,530 in just an 8-year period (2010-18). This will doubtless continue on an upward curve.

But why!?

Because of the commercial benefits! Cast aside the Hitchcockian imagery and consider the application:

  • Sustainability: For consultants and professionals wherein a large portion of activity encompasses site visits and technical surveys on construction projects, in quarries or subterranean spaces. Drone technology offers a cost effective and safe alternative to be used in most instances and so doesn’t involve sticking people in holes or at heights.
  • Speed and efficiency: where we’re going, we don’t need roads” – At a tech conference in 2019, an Amazon executive outlined the company’s goal to roll out a drone delivery service “within months”. Amazon also claim to have successfully trialled this in 2016, delivering a parcel from one of its UK depots to a Cambridge based company in just 15 minutes. Whilst “within months” is a bold statement, benefits are there to be had for retail and transport businesses in terms of offering a faster, environmentally- friendly alternative to conventional forms of transport.
  • Innovation: A sophisticated piece of technology, drones will only become more versatile as the technology advances. Insurance companies are already exploring ways in which they can be used in claims processes to aid loss adjusters in assessing damage and providing pictures. In an article last year, the Insurance Journal stated a belief that industry use of drone tech would sore in aftermath of natural disasters. A belief since proven to be correct following the Australian wildfires earlier this year.

What’s ProAktive’s thoughts?

We take a measured view in that anything designed to allow your business to excel can only be a good thing. That said, be cautious! The technology is still in its infancy, and as with everything, there are risks.

Health & Safety/Regulation:

High profile instances of drone misuse have highlighted the inadequacy of existing regulation and the need for tighter controls. This is something the government has begun to address; albeit as the legislation rapidly develops it can be hard to keep track. As of November 2019, the Air Navigation Order (2018) allows the Civil Aviation Authority to fine businesses up to £2,500 for piloting a drone without the required commercial permissions and registration. From an enforcement point of view, the remit of the CAA seems quite clear cut and will undoubtedly involve the police in more serious cases of gross negligence or corporate manslaughter.

The HSE also have a role in regulation although it looks as if powers dictating drone use rest in the hands of the CAA. This doesn’t mean to say the HSE wouldn’t have an interest though. Theoretically, they could penalise an employer for general health and safety offences if drone misuse is deemed to form part of a company’s regular working processes. Beyond this – who knows? It’s a critical area that bares close inspection as the landscape matures.

Insurance:

A person or company wishing to use drones will find a raft of direct markets if to search online. Such products seem to cover the essentials: i.e. damage to the drone itself and the risk posed to third party property and injury. As with health & safety, deeper questions remain.

For example, how would cover react in response to a privacy breach (say a marketing agency that uses unauthorised footage in an ad campaign) or someone negligently piloting the drone into areas of critical national infrastructure? The ‘rogue drone’ at Gatwick is quite humorous in retrospect and so it’s easy to forget the full scale of disruption it caused from an economic point of view. What if a drone were to accidently enter an unauthorised manufacturing space and result in a protracted business shut down? Would this incident and associated financial loss suffered by the third party be covered under a recreational insurance? What’s clear, is that certain insurers seem to be having these discussions and so in tandem with regulation, the coverage available will inevitably evolve to cover more complex associated risks.

It’s all a fascinating area and one that’s bound to develop sooner rather than later. Keep your heads up!

By Simon Wright Dip CIIAccount Executive

 

 

Coronavirus update for schools

Public Health England (PHE) are issuing good advice for schools on how to deal with Coronavirus / Covid-19. We would strongly recommend that you familiarise yourselves with the guidance provided (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19). PHE are updating this information on a regular basis and this remains the best source of guidance at the present time.

In summary the main advice currently is to increase infection control measures: wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol sanitiser; encourage persons who are unwell to stay at home and; ensure that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly and regularly. Please note that PHE are not recommending automatic closure of schools, due to potential exposure to travellers from designated areas, at the present time.

Other good sources of information are from the foreign office (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus), ACAS (https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus)  and the NHS (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/).

Unattended machinery

WORK WORK WORK

The need to maximise output in today’s booming manufacturing industries means that machinery is more commonly left in operation when the workplace is vacated or unsupervised. From a business perspective this makes perfect sense as you can start a process going at 6pm and it will be finished when employees return at 6am, ready for finishing and dispatch.

 

INSURERS DO NOT LIKE IT!

However, from an insurance perspective it is important to remember to notify your insurer or broker of any processes within your business that occur out of hours. Insurers usually define an unattended process as one that, once set up, “is required to continue for a prolonged period of time without intervention or periodic monitoring by personnel.”

Unattended processes are typically an exclusion under most policies due to the risk of fire, but cover can be agreed subject to meeting certain criteria.

 

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

A drop in oil level or other anomaly can result in fires in electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment. A single spark can cause a flash fire in any machining operation where there’s coolant oil or oil vapour present. A supplementary fire suppression system can guard against machine fires causing a catastrophe. In fact, they represent a small percentage of the cost of investment in a modern CNC machines and a fraction of the cost of repairing major fire damage.

Titanium fires: if hot enough, fine chips of titanium can ignite creating a fire hazard for machines. Fires sparked by titanium and other types of metals are classified as Class D fires. They represent a severe hazard because they burn at very high temperatures and react violently to water and certain chemicals.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Have a plan. Make sure you have a plan to prevent fires. Studies show 43% of businesses closed by a significant fire never reopen. Another 29% fail within three years after reopening.

Make preventing fires a priority concern, especially if you run unattended machines. We highly recommend safeguarding equipment using supplementary fire suppression systems. A typical installation involves mounting a pressurised cylinder containing a fire suppression agent and routing the fire detection tubing to the work zone inside the machine. The cylinder is usually located on the side or rear of the machine out of the way. Systems usually use foam, dry chemicals, water, CO2, FM-200 and 3M Novec 1230 to extinguish fires.

 

FURTHER GUIDANCE

RISC Authority guidance documentation may be downloaded free of charge from https://www.riscauthority.co.uk/free-document-library/RISCAuthority-Library_detail.rc42-fire-safety-of-unattended-processes.html. Please note any fire protection system to be installed to protect unattended process equipment should be subject to a fire risk assessment and consultation with your insurer.

 

CONCLUSION

We have reviewed several insurance programmes recently where a client has innocently not disclosed an unattended machinery process, quite simply because they did not know that this was an issue.

This blog is simply a cautionary note – all manufacturers, machinery and machinery processes are different. At ProAktive we completely understand this, however, what is certain is that you MUST disclose these processes to your insurers and the tide is turning; the general appetite to accept these processes without robust fire risk management procedures in place is significantly diminishing.

If you are in any doubt or have any queries with regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01302 341 344.

By Dane Turner Dip CII – Broking Manager

 

Holidays – Frequently Asked Questions

The recent drop in temperature no doubt brings a yearning for some well needed sunshine. With that in mind we’ve summarised some of the more frequently asked questions regarding holiday pay and entitlement.

What Should Holiday Pay Include?

Most companies think of holiday pay as the basic pay however, holiday pay should also include other elements of pay. A number of legal cases have been key in extending the legal definition of holiday pay and as a result, holiday should include overtime pay and commission or bonuses that are intrinsically linked to the performance of the role. This is especially important when it comes to salespeople who sometimes receive a large proportion of their ‘normal pay’ through commission schemes.

You don’t have to include payments that are only paid occasionally, for example, expenses or end of year bonuses based on company overall performance.

What is included as ‘Normal Hours’ when it comes to holiday pay?

Where some employers fall foul, is when considering what is considered normal hours of work and distinguishing between contracted hours and what happens in practice. When calculating holiday pay you should also include overtime; when it is regularly performed, as well as travel time where the employee doesn’t have a fixed place of work.

What is the Holiday Pay Reference Period?

Most employers are now comfortable with calculating holiday pay using a 12-week average. As of 1st April 2020, the reference period will be changed to 52 weeks.

Is rolled-up Holiday Pay legal?

In short – no. Rolled up Holiday Pay is the practice of including holiday pay as an element of an employee’s normal monthly pay and not paying it at the time the holiday is being taken. This practice is no longer allowed, and Employers should review their processes and contracts to make sure that employees receive pay when they are on holiday. Employers should also avoid paying employees instead of them taking holidays.

If an Employee is off work, do they still accrue holiday days?

Yes – Employees who are on long term sick or statutory leave (e.g. Maternity Leave) still accrue holiday pay. Where an employee cannot take holiday due to sickness absence or statutory leave, they are entitled to carry this over into the next holiday year.

Can we have a ‘use it or lose it’ policy?

Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to have a policy that doesn’t allow for employees to carry forward holidays to the next holiday year, employers should encourage staff to take their holiday days and at the very least ensure each employee takes at least 20 days holiday a year (inc. Bank Holidays).

Can we require employees to take holiday or be restricted from taking holidays at certain periods?

If employers have a legitimate business reason, they can ask employees to take holiday at certain times of the year. A good example of this is when a business shuts down over Christmas/New Year. In these scenarios we always encourage employers to give employees as much notice as possible and ensure that this is documented in the Employee Handbook. Employers can also restrict holidays being taken, for example where there is insufficient cover due to other employees being off or in business critical periods. For example, an Accountancy firm may restrict employees taking holidays in the weeks surrounding the start or end of the financial year.

For further information regarding holidays or any other employment issues please contact our HR Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)HR Business Partner

Coronavirus and Travel Insurance

The following advice was published by the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) in the last few days. Please contact us if you have plans to travel to or through China and we will advise on the status of your cover.

The outbreak of Coronavirus in some regions of China is a rapidly developing situation and we would strongly advise anyone travelling to the country to look at the guidance issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which is updated on a regular basis.

This can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china.

Additional information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/wuhan/-novel-coronaviris-and-avian-flu-advice-for-travel-to-china.

As at 29 January 2020 present, the FCO is advising against ‘all but essential travel’ to China.

From a travel insurance perspective, we expect that consumers who had purchased travel insurance and travelled before the FCO issued its advice on 29 January will be covered while in China (including in Hubei province if they travelled there before the original advice issued on 23 January). Travel insurance includes medical expenses and so treatment costs for a traveller who becomes unwell in China should be covered up to the limit in the policy.

Most travel insurers offer a 24-hour emergency medical advice hotline and travellers who feel they might have been affected by this event are encouraged to call their insurers for help.

For consumers who had purchased travel insurance before 29 January and had booked travel that included visiting or passing China, we would expect that they will be covered for any unused travel and accommodation costs if they are forced to cancel their trip and any necessary extra travel costs if they have to cut their trip short.

For people intending to travel to China after 29 January, insurers are now excluding cover since the FCO is advising against travel. This is a standard response.

Concerned consumers who had booked their trip via a tour operator or travel agent or using a credit card may wish should contact them to see if they can get a refund or have their trip re-arranged.

2020 and beyond: A risky outlook?

The new decade has begun and more than ever the world feels very uncertain. When looking at society through a long-term lens, it’s fair to say that most of us in the United Kingdom today have lived through relatively benign times. Of course, ‘events’ have always happened, but the current period feels more uncertain than ever.

Brexit will undoubtedly put some strain on our relationship with the EU and at this juncture we do not know if we will enter a brave new world of international trade or if we will be hampered by our own actions. The political landscape is also complicated. Only the third US president in history to face impeachment and the middle east remains hopelessly fractured. The Gillet Jaunes in France continue to cause regular paralysis, although you wouldn’t know this from the British media, and Hong Kong is on a knife edge. Speaking of Hong Kong, the recent Coronavirus outbreak seems potentially serious and the world may be due another pandemic and let’s not forget the climate crisis!

Of course, the development of 5G networks looks set to continue at pace and the predictions are that this will revolutionise the way we live and work. This of course may have potential consequences for personal, business and national security and employment as AI, robots and autonomous vehicles start to become reality; several corporations are already at advanced stages of testing new technologies. Whether or not this will result in some dystopian future or luxury automated communism (don’t ask) is open for debate.

The hysteria surrounding all these issues is fuelled by the speed of social media and the 24-hour news channels, but we are facing a number of real uncertainties.

It’s at moments like this it is worthwhile reflecting on your business risks and the strategies you have in place to deal with the major issues. It’s our view that good risk management should be in your thinking together with a sensible, practical, cost effective insurance programme with partners who understand your business. At ProAktive we are proud to understand our clients’ needs and we will continue to deliver solutions whatever the outlook.

By Andy Morley – Group Managing Director

Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) Run-off Cover

If you are alleged to have provided inadequate advice, design or services that subsequently causes your client to lose money, your PII covers the costs and expenses of your defence and the damages and costs awarded.

A PII policy is written on a ‘claims made’ basis, which means that for the policy to be effective there must be a current policy at the time the claim is made/reported. Therefore, if a claim is notified today in respect of work you carried out 3 years ago and you are still liable, if you have allowed your policy to lapse then cover will not be effective.

This is different to other liability covers, Employers Liability for instance, are ‘claims occurring’ basis which covers claims that occur during the policy period irrespective of when the claim is made. Therefore, a policy would not need to be current in order to cover historic losses as long as there was a policy live at the time of the occurrence.

So, what should you do if your contract with your client has ended or you’ve stopped practising, retired or sold your business? Professionals and trades people can be liable for professional indemnity claims for many years after a contract has ended, this tends to be six years but can be longer depending in the contract or type of work. If you have allowed your PII policy to lapse in this period there will be no effective policy to cover claims made in the years after the end of the contract where you may still liable, this is when a run off cover should be purchased to cover such claims.

Run-off cover can be bought annually as you would with your PII policy and you should take this cost into account. Having said this you will find that the annual cost will reduce over the run off period as the potential for claims to occur reduces with time and the premiums will reduce over the period to reflect this.

If you are unsure about the type of cover you require or if you would like a quotation please contact us on either 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Sandy Lockwood Cert CII Commercial Account Handler

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations’ (DSEAR)

DSEAR is an acronym used regularly in the world of health and safety to describe a huge business risk – but what does it even mean? How are you meant to know if it applies to your business? DSEAR stands for ‘The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations’ and applies whenever there is work being carried out, a dangerous substance is present and the dangerous substance could be a risk to the safety of people as a result of fires or explosions.

The following are examples of activities covered by DSEAR:

  • storage of petrol as a fuel
  • use of flammable gases, such as acetylene, for welding
  • handling and storage of waste dusts
  • handling and storage of flammable wastes such as fuel oils
  • welding or other ‘hot work’ on tanks and drums that have contained flammable material
  • work that could release naturally occurring flammable substances such as methane in coalmines or at landfill sites
  • storage and display of flammable goods, such as paints
  • filling, storing and handling aerosols with flammable propellants such as LPG
  • transporting flammable substances in containers around a workplace
  • handling, storage and use of gases under pressure
  • handling, storage and use of substances corrosive to metal.

If your business carries out any of the activities above you must act now!

Risk assessment – Before work is carried out, the risks involved in the use of dangerous substances must be assessed. Control measures must then be put in place to eliminate risks or reduce them as far as is reasonably practicable.

 

Where the risk cannot be eliminated, DSEAR requires control measures to be applied in the following priority order:

  • reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to a minimum
  • avoid or minimise releases of dangerous substances
  • control releases of dangerous substances at source
  • prevent the formation of a dangerous atmosphere
  • collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place (for example, through ventilation)
  • avoid ignition sources;
  • avoid adverse conditions (for example, exceeding the limits of temperature or control settings) that could lead to danger
  • keep incompatible substances apart

 

In addition to control measures, DSEAR requires employers to put mitigation measures in place:

  • reducing the number of employees exposed to the risk
  • providing plant that is explosion resistant
  • providing plant that is corrosion resistant
  • providing explosion suppression or explosion relief equipment
  • taking measures to control or minimise the spread of fires or explosions
  • providing suitable personal protective equipment

 

Emergency plans and procedures – Arrangements must be made to deal with emergencies. These plans and procedures should cover safety drills and suitable communication and warning systems and should be in proportion to the risks.

Training – Employees must be provided with relevant information, instructions and training. This includes the dangerous substances present in the workplace and the risks they present; the findings of the risk assessment and the control measures put in place as a result and emergency procedures.

Why?

It is a daunting topic and it may all sound a little over the top for your business but is it? A company that thought just that has recently received a large fine for overlooking such a scenario. A fire started during a chemical dispensing operation in a warehouse. A flammable vapour created during the process came into contact with an ignition source causing the vapour to ignite.

In this case, the operator dropped the can, exited the warehouse and raised the alarm meaning that no one was injured. The fire spread quickly however and destroyed the warehouse. The company was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £2,377 in costs.

It really highlights the importance of assessing risks associated with flammable atmospheres. Are you confident you have the use of dangerous substances and the risk of fire and explosion in your premises under control?

If we can be of assistance with any health and safety management topic, please get in touch on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Should you allow employees to record formal meetings?

With the advancement of technology, it is now extremely easy for employees to record conversations in the workplace, either legitimately or covertly. When requested, should you allow an employee to record a formal meeting?

Like anything in business there are advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include:

  • Evidence that you have confidence in your managers handling of the process and that you have ‘nothing to hide’.
  • You have an opportunity to put parameters on which the recording can be used, for example by requesting the employee assign copyright to your company to ensure the recording is not used inappropriately on social media or YouTube.
  • You can control which parts of the hearing are recorded, for example only the main hearing and not private conversation during the adjournment.
  • It may be appropriate for an employer to agree to a recording where the employee is disabled and requests such a recording as a reasonable adjustment to the usual procedure.

 

Whilst there may be advantages to granting permission for a hearing to be recorded, our advice would be to proceed with caution.

 

  • Ensure that the employee has stopped the recording at the appropriate time to ensure that any private conversation which takes place during the adjournment are not captured. Where possible managers should carry out their deliberation in a different room or at the very least ensure when the employee leaves the room, they have taken their personal belongings including the recording device with them.
  • Ensure managers are fully trained and have prepared for the disciplinary hearing in advance.
  • Ensure they are comfortable with what is/is not an appropriate comment to make during the adjournment.

 

If you do decide to allow a hearing to be recorded, then it is important to capture the employee’s agreement to theses parameters in writing so that you have this evidence should the recording be used inappropriately.

If you decide to decline the request, ensure this is explained to the employee at the beginning of the hearing and ask the employee to confirm that he/she understands and is not recording the meeting, ensure this is included in the minutes.  If the employee goes ahead anyway, the business will be able to question the employee’s credibility.

If the employee does covertly record the meeting, then it is at the tribunals discretion if the evidence is admissible. Tribunals will usually accept evidence is admissible if it is relevant to the issues in dispute, has been disclosed in good time and would, if admitted, not breach the Human Rights Act 1998.

Whether you allow a disciplinary hearing to be recorded or not, it is imperative that to protect the business and ensure best practice is followed and that managers are fully trained to carry out formal meetings. If you feel that managers need some additional support or training, ProAktive offer a wide range of packages to support your business.

By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPD  –

HR Business Partner

 

 

Changes to fire alarm responses from this month.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services (SYFRS) have attended 3,457 call outs to commercial buildings (offices, schools, workshops etc.) over the past three years. They estimate that 97% of these visits turned out to be false alarms. That’s amounted to a colossal waste of their time, over 1000 hours, which could have been more properly spent elsewhere.

Having reviewed the above, SYFRS have announced that from the 6th January 2020, they will no longer automatically attend fire alarms in commercial buildings. They will only attend when a blaze has been confirmed. This brings SYFRS into line with other fire and rescue services throughout the country and also reflects the view of the National Fire Chiefs Council. The only exception to this is that alarms in high risk buildings with sleeping risks, such as hospitals, universities, hotels and high rise flats, will still be responded to without confirmation of a blaze.

So what do you need to do to minimise the risk of a fire in your premises? We would recommend that you work your way down this list to start with:

 

  • Complete a fire risk assessment of your premisesthis is a legal requirement for all commercial premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This will identify hazards which require control within your workplace. To make you aware, the definition of commercial premises also extends to houses that you may have rented out if they are classed as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). We would strongly recommend that this be undertaken by a trained and competent person.
  • Maintain housekeeping standards in your workplacemake sure that fire escape routes are kept clear. Also make sure that if you separate combustible materials from sources of ignition. Sounds obvious, right? You wouldn’t believe the number of cardboard boxes that we see in electrical cupboards!
  • Make sure that your staff know the emergency procedureit is a legal requirement to undertake an annual fire drill. Even if there’s only two of you! We recommend that you do this every six months as a minimum. It’s 5 minutes out of your day, and the more familiar your staff are with the emergency routes and procedures, the better they will be.

 

  • Check and maintain fire alarm systems –  if they are maintained properly, then they will give you warning of fire situations. The less false alarms you have, the more likely people are to respond.

 

  • Check and maintain fire extinguishers fire extinguishers should be serviced annually but you should still do regular checks to ensure that they are where they should be. Do you know what the most common use of a fire extinguisher is? A door stop! If it’s not where you need it, what are you going to do?

 

If you are worried about any of the above, or want specialist advice, ProAktive employ a number of qualified fire risk assessors who would be happy to assist. Call our team on 01302 341 344.