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Insuring health and safety?

25 July 2010

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) is encouraging insurers to work closely with safety stakeholders to minimise the adverse impacts on health and safety sometimes created by the ways in which insurance companies operate.

Often misconstrued health and safety decisions are taken by safety managers in an attempt to minimise the financial risks that could result from claims, which they fear the insurers will refuse to settle on the basis of breaching the terms of the policy.

Many companies seeking health and safety insurances on external sites undergo inspections by their insurers, however these are rarely health and safety specialists. Through conversations with insurers the BSIF now believes that these inspections are to evaluate the financial risk of a potential claim. Whereas conversations with site managers suggest they take the view that following a successful insurance inspection, their risk assessments, operating method statements and protection programmes have been validated as adequate. One of the top insurers is keen to change this erroneous perception and the BSIF hopes that others will follow suit.

The BSIF believes that the best way to resolve these difficulties is, initially, for a dialogue to take place between enforcers, insurers and safety industry stakeholders to establish the extent and importance of the situation. This dialogue will aim to ensure that everyone understands how insurance should be approached and provide clients with a wider understanding of the purpose of inspections by insurers and recognition that it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of their staff without seeking to mitigate it through insurer inspections. This will then also stimulate insurers to be better advised regarding the legal responsibilities of their clients in health and safety matters and encourage more rigorous investigation of claims before any settlements are made. The desired result will be a reduction in insurance premiums and a change in the culture towards honest compensation for genuine injuries, creating safer workplaces and a decrease in the commonly perceived health and safety myths.

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