News & views

Monday, February 27, 2017

Identifying and understanding the wide variety of possible risks to a business can be daunting, and often business owners may need a little help.

That’s where NIG’s in-house Risk Control Team, led by our Head of Risk Control Duncan Calder, step in. Each year members of the Risk Control Team visit more than 3,000 locations with these assessments providing great insight and practical guidance for both our underwriters and customers alike.

The customers we visit appreciate the genuine interest that our Risk Control Team shows in getting to know their business, the vast experience that our Risk Control Surveyors bring, and the knowledge that they share in order to help reduce the risks to their business.

Many of these visits will of course result in some form of Risk Improvement or Risk Management Guidance being put forward by the Risk Control Surveyor to further improve the customer’s business. This will be to help reduce the risk of and exposure to loss in the future and to help make the insured business more robust and resilient.

Any Risk Improvements that are issued to the customer are followed up by our Peterborough based Survey Support Team to ensure they are followed through to conclusion, and therefore genuine reduction in the risk exposure of the business is achieved.

However, we only visit a relatively small proportion of all customers so not all get the benefit of first hand risk expertise from a member of our Risk Control Team.

In order to help raise awareness levels with all of our customers Duncan has, in conjunction with our Survey Support Team, identified and wrote a short introduction to the ten most common risk improvement topics issued in 2016.


Fire - Alarms:

Typically the most common risk improvement put forward in relation to Fire Alarm systems are to upgrade the level of detection coverage, or method of signalling, to help ensure the system does as intended (i.e. detect fire early, raise the alarm to allow personnel to evacuate safely and quickly summon experts to tackle the fire itself if appropriate and safe to do so).

It is therefore important when changing or reconfiguring premises to consider associated systems such as fire alarms to ensure detection levels are not compromised.


Fire – Electrical Installations:

Many risk improvements are put forward due to concerns around the age and condition of electrical installations. These can often be quite old and there may have been extensions and changes to the original installation. Given the great frequency with which “electrical” is identified as the root cause of fires it is perhaps therefore no surprise that requiring electrical installations to be regularly inspected by a competent person is seen as so important by insurers.

The frequency with which an inspection is required varies according to the nature of occupation. For instance it will be more frequent for heavier trades which place greater demand on their electrical installations. Typically for commercial premises the recommended interval is every five years.


Fire – Flammable Liquids / Gases:

Many work places will have some level of flammable liquids or gases present in the premises either utilised directly in the main business process (e.g. printing) in some way or else in relation to some ancillary activity (e.g. a gas powered fork lift truck). As such a number of risk improvements relate to improved handling and storage of these as they can present increased hazards to fuel fire and potentially explosion.

These should be eliminated where possible; however, in cases where it is not possible to do so the business owner must make sure that only the minimum required quantities are held, and that this is done so in well designed, proprietary storage arrangements. Completing a specific Fire Risk Assessment will help identify what is currently present in the workplace and the most appropriate arrangements to have in place.


Fire – Heating:

Whilst inappropriate storage of combustible materials around heaters can frequently be an issue (see the housekeeping item), this item relates to the heater itself being inappropriate for the environment in which it is being used. For example this may be due to the presence of an unprotected naked flame, or perhaps use in an environment with flammable vapours present. The solution is normally to substitute the heating method for a more appropriate form better suited to the particular situation in order to reduce the risk.


Fire – Housekeeping:

This risk improvement topic encompasses a wide range of housekeeping issues but most commonly refers to a lack of clear space being maintained around other hazards thus creating an increased fire risk. Examples include heaters, electrical switchgear, process plant and forklift truck chargers. Good housekeeping standards, proper segregation of hazards, and regular inspection regimes should therefore be a key focus for the business owner.


Fire - Risk Assessment:

Although enacted over a decade ago now, we regularly find that the requirements of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order & the Fire (Scotland) Act, that apply to virtually all workplaces, are not well understood.

These require, among other things, the appointment of a “responsible person” to carry out a specific risk assessment in relation to fire and to document the significant findings of the assessment.


Fire – Yard / External Storage:

This risk improvement is concerned with vulnerable combustible items being stored outside and presenting an exposure to the business premises. Typical examples would include open skips or waste bins stored outside loading bay doors that could present an easy target for arson attacks. Moving such hazards well away from buildings can be a simple way to remove or reduce exposure to this risk.


Health & Safety:

Whilst many individual hazards can be spotted during the course of an assessment visit the key to effective Health and Safety management is the underlying management commitment and approach. Therefore risk improvements in this broad area tend to focus on the employers responsibilities to have properly assessed and documented the risks and to thereafter put in place improvement and monitoring steps. In order to help defend against potential claims it is important for the business owners to keep and maintain records which can demonstrate that the employer has discharged their responsibilities effectively.


Health and Safety – Training / Records:

Arguably a sub-set of the preceding Health and Safety risk item, however, the provision of training and the associated keeping of training records is something frequently identified for specific improvement. Employees should receive proper induction training and be provided appropriate training for the role and tasks that they are expected to perform at work. This should include any safety equipment and procedures associated with the role.

As in other areas it is important to keep a proper record of the training which has been provided, in addition to the trainee’s written acknowledgement that this has been received and understood. Taking these simple steps can help should there be a need to defend against a claim in the future.


Security:

Typically business owners will have some level of security in place and therefore the risk improvements put forward by the Risk Control Team are focussed on closing gaps. These may be simple items such as padlocking the inside of a roller shutter door to prevent theft, or extending coverage of an intruder alarm system to an area that has inadvertently been missed.

Occasionally there will be need for a more substantial upgrade reflecting a change in the nature of the risk exposure, such as when higher value, more portable stock is now being stored. It is therefore very important to periodically review security protection levels to ensure they remain appropriate and effective for the level of risk.


So that’s the NIG Top 10 Risk Improvement topics of 2016, however, with a new year comes the potential for different risks to become more prevalent for the business owners of the UK.

As such NIG will be dedicating a lot of time to further educate about important risk management practices. So keep an eye out over the next few months for further NIG Source articles and additions to the Resources section of NIG.com that will provide more guidance and deeper insight on the above topics to help you make your clients businesses more robust and resilient.

If this top 10 has got you thinking of a customer who may need further risk management guidance, please contact your local Senior Business Development Manager so that they can put you in touch with a NIG Risk Control Surveyor.

Find our more about Risk Control Team