A post from "the Dark Side"



I was browsing in the "other" foruum, and came across this. Comments?

Joe the Plumber
2 posts since
Currently Being Moderated
13-Aug-2011 08:13
Insurance for use of heat (you probably haven't actually got any)
This question is Not Answered.
I apologise for the length of this message, but I hope it will be of interest to you.

I'm a one man band, self-employed plumber. I've been insured for Public Liability via the CIPHE’s recommended scheme ever since I joined the Institute back in 2003. I did once have a year out with a cheaper scheme but realised I didn't trust them to provide adequate cover and came back the next year. So far, I've never had to claim, but I've been reassured that they're there if I need them.

My brother-in-law (not a CIPHE) member) has been working in property maintenance for 20 years and has built up an excellent reputation in his village and beyond, to the point that he doesn't need to advertise any longer. He's no cowboy, has always made sure he has proper PLI (I don't know who with) and does his best to work safely whatever he does. As far as I know, he'd never had to claim on his insurance as the result of his work.

Back in April, on the hottest day of the year so far, he was working at a bungalow on a flat roofed extension, torching some new felt on, and had a small fire. Luckily, he was able to put it out within a few seconds. He double checked it was out and carried on, happy that he'd got a couple of buckets of water to hand and an extinguisher in his van a few yards away.

Twenty minutes later, another fire appeared some way away from the earlier one and adjoining the main pitched roof of the bungalow. Despite his best efforts, it quickly engulfed the main roof leading to the fire brigade having to come out and the house was left uninhabitable.

It's obviously all our worst nightmares, but it then got worse. On contacting his insurers, they sent an assessor out who eventually declared that he wasn't covered because he hadn't followed all the precautions laid out in his policy document.

A couple of weeks ago, he was presented with a bill for £190,000 (a hundred and ninety thousand pounds). His case goes to the ombudsman later this month and if he loses, he will lose his house, his business and everything he owns. He's 57 years old and was winding down towards retirement.

How this will end up for him, and all our immediate family if he loses I've no idea, but as a result of his disaster, I’ve now looked closely at the 'Exclusions' section of my own PLI document relating to the use of heat away from my business premises.To comply with the requirements for lighting my blowtorch in most situations I can think of would be almost impossible. Fundamentally, although my PLI is supposed to cover me for the use of heat, I don't believe it does. Have a look at your own exclusions and conditions and see if you always comply with every one of them.

For example, how many tradesmen could say that they always have signed permission from the occupier of the property they are working on to use heat? Or have suitable fire extinguishers in the right quantities to hand to fight any possible fire. Or that they remain on the premises for an hour after they've turned the torch off to check that there is no fire, etc, etc.

This to me is now very frightening. We think we're covered, but we're not. The conditions imposed are all very sensible in theory, but in reality don't allow us to do our jobs. I've no idea of the way round this either. Are we in fact being mis-sold the cover (by any insurer) as it doesn't actually offer any?

For anyone who has the same thing happen, all I can offer is to remember the assessor from your insurers is there purely to find a way to avoid them having to pay for the damage and is certainly NOT on your side. Think before you speak. That was my brother-in-law's first mistake - he thought the chap was working to help him, and he wasn't.

In hindsight, of course he would have been more careful, but it was a job he'd done dozens of times before and had no reason to think it was any more likely to go wrong this time. I appreciate complacency is very dangerous, but my main concern is that PLI doesn't actually cover you for fire.

I’m sure that there are thousands of responsible tradesmen who are working with heat every day, assuming they are insured, when in fact they aren’t.

I’d be most grateful for any thoughts you can offer about this, and if you have encountered anyone who has been in the same position as my poor brother-in-law and could offer any advice to help him that would obviously be much appreciated too.
Thanks folks.
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8 Jan 2005
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United Kingdom
Not a lot of help but.

Hot works permit is standard procedure and has been for as long as I can remember. (50years)

No, hot works after 15:30, and plus 1 hour on site before it's signed off for the day has been in place at least 15years.

In your Brothers case it will depend exactly how the contract is worded, also check previous contracts to see whether the insurance company have not included clauses or cover from previous years.
10 Jun 2009
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United Kingdom
It is always best to find a commercial insurance broker who specialises in your area of business, we have been offered may Tradesmens PLI "One size fits all" policies over the years however as the OP states there are many onerous clauses and conditions

By finding a broker who specialises in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering or whatever you do,
you should find a policy that is taylored to the needs of your particullar trade with better cover for specific risks ;)

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