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Professional Indemnity Insurance For Health and Safety Advisors

Any self-employed professional or business which provides inspection or consultancy services including giving general or specialised advice may, despite their best efforts, be subject to a possible future negligence claim. Claims arise whether they are well founded or not; this is investigated by the relevant tribunal or court later.

Such allegations and claims may crop up owing to incorrect or wrong advice, along with omissions in health and safety audits or risk assessments for fire or COSHH (Control of Substances which are Hazardous to Heath) in private buildings. In addition, liability may also be alleged regarding draft safety policies, safety training provided and/or any recommendations implemented, loss of documents, downright negligence and even dishonest employees. In this latter case, cover usually applies only until suspicion arises.

If the claim is proven, compensation or damages may be awarded against the Health and Safety adviser or the business. Cover for these damages should be provided by adequate P.I. policies, which also offer peace of mind by protecting the policyholder(s) against extra legal defence and administrative costs and the associated worry at such a stressful time.

When taking out new P.I. insurance cover, the insurance company should be informed of any currently known circumstances which may give rise to a possible future claim during the policy cover period. Good policies include cover for health and safety survey work and adequate defence for corporate liability for manslaughter. Different levels of cover are available and policies can be tailored to suit the individual or business concerned.

Health and safety - how risky is that?

Health and safety has become ever more prevalent in many facets of our lives, from workplace conditions to the "where there's blame there's a claim" insurance culture. We usually expect our health and safety advisors to give us sensible information, leaving us to decide whether or not to take their advice or just let common sense prevail. However, throughout the years a small minority of individuals have made some eyebrow-raising comments, leading to all manner of problems. Unfortunately the media often seize on these incidents, to the detriment of the whole profession. In this article we take a look at a handful of the worst decisions together with some controversial advice handed out.

Danger - armed granny!

One British charity shop made a silly "health and safety" excuse when a customer enquired if they sold knitting needles. Presumably they felt that 57 year old grandmother Maggie Croal was a danger to herself and the public should she get hold of such an outlandish weapon. On a similar theme, a Cambridgeshire public hall (which regularly ran functions) banned knives from its kitchen area on the grounds of safety - clearly unaware that knives are among the most essential tools for food preparation. Hampshire resident Tim Bannister was subjected to even more ludicrous advice when told he couldn't use a tray to carry a round of drinks across a pub as he hadn't been correctly trained!

Saved a child? I must warn you that anything you say .....

None of those examples are especially serious, but one bad piece of advice certainly did produce a potentially dangerous situation. In March 2010 a 5 year old pupil at Manor School in Wiltshire decided to climb a tree on the school premises, and subsequently refused to come down. Rather than sending someone to help the child back to class, teachers followed guidelines to the letter and just let him stay there for more than 45 minutes, more worried about their own legal standing than any potential accident if the child should fall. It took a passer-by to spot the danger and remove the child, at which point the helpful soul was then reported to the police for trespassing on school grounds!

The 85-year-old weightlifter

More health and safety madness came from an Essex council office. 85 year old Charlotte Cubit had contacted them to use their heavy item removal service to dispose of an old television set. However, the officer informed the pensioner that due to health and safety concerns, their staff couldn't enter her home and could she kindly move the heavy TV herself to the edge of the road from where the set would be removed for just an £11 fee. Just imagine the backlash if Ms Cubit had hurt herself following the wise council advice.

Sorry, members only

The tragic case of Alison Hume was another example of health and safety overruling common sense. In summer 2008, the 44 year old Scottish lady fell down a 40 foot mineshaft, suffering potentially fatal injuries. She was left stranded down the hole for more than 6 hours, even after rescuers arrived. Health and safety regulations did not permit the winching equipment which had lowered someone to her side to bring her back up again as she was "not a member of the rescue services". Rather than ignore the advice and simply extract Mrs Hume, fire crews called for further assistance from mountain rescue services, who did not arrive for another 4 hours. Having been extracted at last, the stricken Mrs Hume died from a heart attack.

Don't make it safer, you"ll get sued

In January 2010, with Britain in the grip of a severe winter frost, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health warned the nation that attempts to make public pavements ice-free could in turn lead to potential damage claims if a member of the public subsequently slipped and received an injury on that pathway. Their advice was to leave the paths icy and hazardous rather than let anyone try and make the paths safe, and leave themselves open to lawsuits from anyone slipping on the cleared paths.