Contracting mistakes: Why it pays to have the right cover in place

Contractor Mistakes

We’ve written many times on these pages in the past about the importance of having insurance in place. Whether you’re a contractor, a recruiter placing a contractor in a role, or the end client, it’s important that you do everything you can to minimise risk.

99% of the time everything goes smoothly. Deadlines are met, measurements are accurate, and projects are completed. But there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. The financial and reputational costs that come with a claim are likely to be large, and having the right cover in place will help you to offset any costs you will incur.

So why are we bringing up this particular topic again? Two stories in the news recently got us thinking.

At the end of August, a huge fire ripped through Primark in Belfast. This branch of the retailer was housed in the historic Bank Buildings, a landmark 118-year-old five-storey structure in the centre of the city. The blaze took three-and-a-half days to put out, leaving little more than a charred sandstone façade.

At the time of the fire the store was being refurbished and extended at an estimated cost of some £30m. Although no one was injured, and no official cause has been established, the construction firm who were leading the redevelopment appear to be heavily involved.

It appears likely that the fire was connected to work being carried out on the roof as part of the development, and speculation is likely to fall on some kind of individual error. All parties remain quiet whilst an investigation into the exact cause of the blaze is underway, but the financial ramifications will be substantial.

As of the publishing date of this post, the stability of the remains of the building is still up in the air, and the city council has noted that there can be “no quick fix.” Significant assessment from a number of experts continues to take place.

Unfortunately, however, the Belfast fire was only one of several costly errors to come under scrutiny in the last month.

A report in the New Civil Engineer notes that an unnamed new eight-storey concrete building has been built without eight columns “after they were omitted from the ground and first floor drawings.”

In a report by the safety body Cross it was noted that without the columns a 225mm thick reinforced concrete slab was required to span up to 14m. The firm behind the design, also unnamed, blamed the BIM (Building Information Modelling) software modelling tool it was using but did not give any further information.

Whatever the cause (Cross stated that the columns in the software were perhaps “deleted by someone not appreciating their structural role”), any structural engineers involved should have appreciated that they were still required to check the final output before signing anything off.

As the Cross report states: “As BIM becomes more common, engineers need to improve their skills and develop tools to check final BIM models against their design intent. It is they who are responsible for design, not the software.”

“On a wider theme, the history of failures reveals a frequent pattern of gross error; that is an error so bad, you wonder how no one spotted it. This report seems to fall into that category. A lesson is for engineers to always start with looking at the big picture: are the load paths clear, is there a stability system and so on? – all before they get down to detail.”

Although the outcome of the failure is not revealed, it is once again very likely that a significant sum of money will be required to fix the error (not to mention the associated legal costs and damages).

It goes to show that, no matter how good you are at what you do, we all sometimes make mistakes. It’s much better to be covered should such a problem arise, rather than take the risk and end up having to foot the bill yourself.

That’s where Kingsbridge can help. Want to know more about the bespoke insurance cover we provide for contractors? Just give one of our friendly team a call on 01242 808740, or take a look at our website.

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