The challenges in securing professional indemnity insurance for fire-risk assessors continues and appears to be diluting the already stretched capacity of the sector, making it harder for responsible persons to find competent people to assess the fire safety of buildings.
Many fire risk assessors have said they are facing a combination of a reduction in liability cover, further restrictive endorsements and some dramatic rises in premium costs. A few have indicated they may even leave the sector. If the trend continues, it could see a decline in the available building-safety expertise, jeopardising the ambitions of a safer built environment.
Some risk assessors reported seeing a tenfold increase in their insurance premium costs in the last three years. One company with ten risk assessors, who do not undertake cladding or external wall surveys, quoted an increase in annual premium from £3,500 three years ago to £38,000 today. This was linked to a cover reduction from £5 million to £1 million.
Dennis Davis, Executive Officer at the Fire Sector Federation, said: ‘The challenge of cost increases for reduced cover is forcing some risk assessors to consider their future. This could further compromise the already limited capacity for competent fire-safety assessments. This is significant in that it limits our ability to support those in the construction and housing sectors who want to ensure their buildings are safe and compliant.
‘The Federation has welcomed recent new fire-safety legislation and looks forward to the introduction of further improvements proposed in the wider building safety regime change. However, this will require a high degree of competence and specialist fire-safety knowledge. Raising competency levels and capacity are key elements to this strategy. The Federation actively promotes third-party assurance with its associated controls and independent assessment to encourage all, including insurers, to feel confident with the work conducted by fire-risk assessors. We cannot afford to erode existing numbers of fire risk assessors.
‘We know the government is both aware and working with industry to seek to improve access to affordable insurance, but we do need to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.’
The Fire Sector Federation is at the forefront of driving competence in fire safety and last year published a Code of Practice for fire-risk assessors together with guidance on choosing a suitable person and provides a national listing to help those requiring expertise in this area.
For more information, go to www.firesectorfederation.co.uk