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A little less compensation

These days, it is often said that our society has never been more litigious, more blame focused. Accidents dont simply happen anymore, somebody has to be made to take the blame and, increasingly, to pay. The adverts that swamp the breaks during daytime television all urge people to call in to claim for accidents they may have suffered at work. The metals and recycling industries, with their plants, transporters and heavy machinery, are two industries that could find themselves particularly exposed if workers come to harm. How can those in the industry safeguard themselves against the UKs growing compensation culture?

Tony Gardiner (pictured overleaf), group broking director with risk company The Davis Group, argues that while we may now be more savvy as to the possibilities of claiming compensation, that shouldnt deter people who have suffered injury through negligence: There are two distinct groups: if youre an employee and have been injured at work, or even if youre a non-employee and your property has been damaged or youve been injured if someone has been negligent, then it is quite right and proper that you should claim compensation.

He counters: However, there is undoubtedly more awareness that you can claim and sometimes achieve substantial awards, from the adverts on television and in the Sunday papers. In the insurance world, the companies that work on such a basis and shout out the no-win, no-fee scenario are known as claims farmers.

To arm themselves, what companies do need to make sure they have is insurance cover from a company that specialises in covering the recycling industry. It can be difficult to get, its not a massive market, but it is still there and some companies do have an appetite for it, says Gardiner.

It can prove particularly difficult, for example, if you handle hazardous materials in the course of your work, and Gardiner points out a well-documented example: Asbestos has caused the insurance industries severe problems. In the 60s and 70s there was no perceived threat from it, but now there are people suffering horribly as a result.

While the human cost of such exposure is evident, the risk is also considerable to the insurance industry, which can place heavy premiums on the companies. Insurance companies may have to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds, reserves they may not necessarily have, which means that companies which work with such material may have to dig deep for the insurance in the first place.

The problem is that we simply dont know where the next risk is going to come from. Asbestos seemed to come out of nowhere, what will be next mobile phones? People who work with VDUs? The insurance industry is very aware that things can come and bite them on the bum, so this needs to be reflected in premiums, cautions Gardiner.


Although there may be gremlins yet to crawl out of the woodwork, those in the industry should not despair. There are experts who will champion your cause, although you need to ensure you have taken the necessary steps beforehand. For example, you will need to make sure that you have registered with the Environment Agency. If a skip and waste transfer site was looking for insurance, and it emerged that they handled asbestos at the site, they would need to make sure that they held a license, issued by the council, to do so. When an insurance specialist comes to visit, they will be looking to identify any potential risks. Issues of health and safety, and first aid need to be addressed, staff need to know how to use the provided equipment properly.

Everything needs to be explored in full. The expert insurance advisor will go along and fact find, look at the companys history, and at how you handle the materials you work with. Theyll look at the necessary certificates, and also at the security of the site, says Gardiner.

The equipment on a site needs to fall under certain criteria, not least regarding how and when it is inspected: crane attachments and hoists n

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