Where there is chaos, there is opportunity – and if you’re a broker with an interest in the agricultural sector then there may never have been a better chance to ram home the importance of insurance cover among your clientele.
That’s because tough new sentences are set to be introduced for businesses convicted of health and safety offences. Currently, lower courts are limited to fines of £20,000 – however, those found guilty of health and safety offences could potentially face unlimited fines or even imprisonment from February 2017 onwards.
Insurance Business UK
reached out to Debbie Airey, managing director of Country and Commercial Insurance Brokers, who believes that farms are particularly at risk from the new legislation.
“I run my own business and we have a directors and officers policy which covers us for any exposure to any legislation we may have missed, for example – and we’re very low risk because we’re fully regulated by the FCA and we have FCA health-checks every 12 months,” she said.
“However, a farmer is not a limited company, he’s not a director, but he is exposed to as much legislation and as much exposure as anyone else. Farms are in the highest category for accidents.”
According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive, one person a week has been killed in the agricultural sector over the last decade – something that Airey is only too aware of.
“I have experienced a death with one of my clients – an employer who worked for them for eight years was killed,” she said. “When you see what those people went through, they were good, hard-working, honest people, but then they were arrested for corporate manslaughter and went to hell and back: you realise that could happen on any of my farms.”
According to estimates, firms with turnover up to £2 million could face fines as high as £450,000 with figures rising dependent on the company’s turnover. As such, farmers are in desperate need of experienced advice to ensure they have adequate cover in place – with the Rural Protect specialist liability policy being introduced to cover both the business and the individual.
“Things are already tough for farmers and they’re going to get tougher,” continued Airey. “I have about 70 per cent take up on this policy because farmers are becoming more aware of the legislation they face. They’re aware they’re not up to date with health and safety and they’re aware this is coming in.
“The health and safety officials are going to come calling. They’ve done the building industry already and farmers are the next, easiest target.
“As soon as health and safety come down they start charging £124 an hour for fees for intervention - as soon as they spot a breach that’s what farmers will have to pay. Last year the government targeted £6.4 million in fees for intervention – and they created £1.8 million. So they have had a shortfall and the government want to make this self-funding.
“I can almost guarantee that on any farm there will be a health and safety breach – whether they don’t wear helmets on their quad bikes or whether their chemicals aren’t stored correctly. Farmers have to be prepared.”
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