Fireplace/Log-Burner Installers and Chimney Sweepers: How fit for purpose is your business insurance?

Assess the heat of your business policy.

We all love our cosy home comforts. There’s nothing better than coming home after a hard day at work, escaping the biting winter cold and getting comfortable on the sofa in front of the radiant warming glow of the fireplace. For businesses such as country pubs, there is a school of thought that customers believe their food and drink tastes better in the presence of a roaring open fire.

These simple pleasures are arguably a central staple of British culture.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that fireplace installation trades are a popular choice to pursue a career in. For one, you are unlikely to be short of work. Secondly, there is a tremendous amount of pride to be taken in making a difference to someone’s quality of life. And thirdly, the technical knowledge gained in this area gives trades a more diverse skillset. This can range from chimney sweeping to more technical renewable energy affiliated trades such as biomass appliance installation.

In this article we aim to explore what challenges those who do this for a living face. What are the risks involved? What legal requirements protect them and their customers? What protections can they put in place to protect themselves?

What are the main significant risks they face?

FIRE & CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING: UK Home Office Fire Statistics show approximately 7% of all UK household fires and an average of 25 carbon monoxide deaths a year are linked to faulty electrical appliances including fireplaces.

Therefore, understandably there is a significant responsibility and duty of care for the tradesperson to ensure they are competently trained to a sufficient standard, and not a danger to themselves, their employees, and the public. It is critical to have adequate protections in place if something goes wrong.

And it’s not just this disastrous end of spectrum with threats to human life that need to be considered. All construction trades need to be aware of the day-to-day hazards they encounter that could result in an expensive problem.

What reassurances can be given to vouch for the Installers competency?

HETAS (Heating equipment Testing and Approvals scheme) is a not-for-profit organisation and the UK’s only specialist organisation for this type of trade (. Amongst the services they provide are approved training centres to those who work in the sector, and they can provide certification to contractors and appliances giving piece of mind to the consumer that the required legal standard has been satisfied (similar to an Electrician being NICEIC registered). A key HETAS objectives is to be a much wider force for good for society, working with the government to minimise the environmental impact of solid fuel heating sources. Their surplus funds go towards businesses that specialise in various carbon emission reducing projects.

What are the legal requirements?

As of April 2005 it has been a legal requirement for all fitted solid fuel appliances to have a certificate of compliance. From the consumer’s perspective, if you don’t have one, not only is that a significant risk to health and safety, but also a risk to invalidating your home or business insurance. It may also cause complications when selling your property as well.

Public, Products & Employer’s Liability Insurance Requirements: Accidents happen, no matter how robust the training and regulations. For when they happen, specialist purpose-built insurance needs to be in place to pick up the pieces. To be HETAS registered they insist installers hold a MINIMUM of £2,000,000 Public Liability cover, and where appropriate (as with any business) Employer’s Liability is a legal requirement.

Other insurance considerations

Bespoke packages and Commercial Combined policies: Should you be a fireplace installer operating from a retail premises or industrial unit, you may be better suited to a product that incorporates not only your liabilities mentioned above but aspects you need to protect for your business to function, such as Stock, Contents, Business Interruption, Cyber etc.

Professional Indemnity: What happens if the loss is purely financial with no physical injury or damage? If any part of the service you provide relates to advice (e.g. around the design of solid fuel heating appliances, or the advice on the economic or environmental benefits of having one), then your public liability policy is unlikely to cover anyone accusing you of a breach of professional duty of this nature. This is where Professional Indemnity policies can help.

What challenges are faced when trying to source suitable insurance?

Market Placement: Ask any tradesperson whose work involves heat or gas, and their business insurance is likely to be more expensive than it was in years gone by. As well as higher excesses, stricter conditions to adhere to and a hardening market, fewer insurers will have a risk appetite broad enough to accommodate this sector.

Jack of all trades: It is prudent for a self-employed tradesperson to have a diverse skillset and as many strings to their bow as possible, especially if there is a seasonal aspect to your work – for example not many people seek the services of a chimney sweeper in the warmer months. Therefore, a public liability policy that’s purpose built for trades of a fireplace or chimney ilk may not be as accommodating to other wider trade-related activity. Thus, further narrowing options on the market.

HETAS Requirements: HETAS are notoriously strict when it comes to public liability insurance policy wording. Justifiably so, given the potential disastrous consequences that could occur should someone’s insurance policy fail. They require the job description in the schedule to specifically read as ‘Solid fuel installations Contractor.’

The drawback of this is if you find an insurer with a competitive premium and reasonable terms that is 100% comfortable with the trade descriptions ‘fireplace installation’ and/or ‘chimney sweep’, but doesn’t have a drop-down option for ‘solid fuel installations contractor’ or the freedom to endorse the schedule as such, then that is likely to be rejected by HETAS and the contractor in question risks being struck off until they can find an insurer who can accommodate.

Jon King, Howden Leamington Spa’s Commercial Manager, offers some explanations:

“We have a collective responsibility as brokers to keep up to date with modern industry compliance standards. Not just in our own industry, but also have an awareness of the requirements our client’s face in their own industries.

“Recent enquiries from Fireplace and Log Burner Installers have been a good example of the importance of this. We know what to look out for in terms of which insurers have the correct understanding of the work undertaken. Which insurance products are most suitable, and if their wording is thorough enough to satisfy industry requirements.

“Our clients really appreciate it when we make the effort to understand their trade and regulations they must adhere to. It makes it much more personal and fluid approach, and less of a tick box exercise. They then generally feel more valued as client and not just a number.”

Howden is more than happy to support the UK’s thousands of hardworking solid fuel installation contractors and associated tradespeople. Call Jon King at our Leamington Spa branch on 01926 436 420 or visit him at 160 The Parade, Leamington Spa CV32 4AE.