By Steve Kilpin, Recertification Manager, Safesite
What does your insurance cover?
Several times when I’ve spoken to customers about inspection and recertification of their fall protection systems they’ve commented that their insurance company had inspected the system or equipment and said that it was ok. While we would always recommend that businesses make sure they have adequate insurance, this is a worrying misunderstanding of what insurance inspections really cover.
It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to check equipment such as harnesses but what exactly are they inspecting, and do they have sufficient understanding of what can affect its performance to determine if it’s safe to use? For a harness to be fit for purpose it must be in date and show no signs of wear and tear such as cuts, frayed stitching or chemical damage. Having a serial number and a CE mark does not mean it’s a viable product to insure.
When an insurance company inspects a work at height system and any PPE associated with it, they will give you an “inspection certificate” but all this means is that they will insure it. It does not mean that the system or equipment has been inspected by a competent person and that it complies with legislation.
Just think what would happen if an accident occurred and it was found that the harness being used was at fault. It’s more than likely that the insurance company would produce their paperwork to say that their inspection was for insurance purposes only and the equipment is only compliant if a maintenance and inspection regime has been conducted in line with manufacturer instructions and in accordance with legislation and the relevant EN standards.
Fall protection systems and PPE are no different to a car. Your insurance company will insure your car, but if you fail to check the tyres or ignore manufacturer service requirements for the tyres to the point that they are no longer compliant and an accident occurs, the insurance company says that you’re not insured.
This misunderstanding of the insurance issue is a concern within the industry and one that clearly needs to be addressed. The BSIF has said that it believes that the purpose of these inspections is to simply evaluate the financial risk of a potential claim. If you believe that your system has been competently inspected by your insurer, you could be in difficulty when trying to defend yourself should an HSE inspection take place. The only way to ensure that you’re covered should an accident occur is to have your fall protection system inspected at least annually by a competent person/company, not just your insurance company.