The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has urged brokers to check their commercial clients’ public liability (PL) policies to ascertain whether they’re likely to cover claims in relation to Legionnaire’s disease.
With many formerly home-working or furloughed staff around the country now returning to offices that have lain vacant during the lockdown, a CII report authored by Stuart Stead argues that the extent of cover for Legionella under many commonly available PL policies is by no means unambiguous.
Stead warns that many business owners will not appreciate that not all PL policies include cover for Legionnaires disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria that kills around 40 people a year in the UK. Infection is typically contracted by breathing in water droplets suspended in the air, and is particularly dangerous for older people and those with respiratory problems or compromised immune systems.
Stead notes that if a client’s premises are affected by an outbreak of Legionella ‘it could cause not only a financial penalty but also severe reputational damage, from which many businesses could struggle to recover.’
From an insurance perspective, cases of exposure to Legionnaire’s disease appear to occupy an uneasy middle ground somewhere between a disease and a form of pollution. This ambiguous status could potentially lead to cover being denied in the event of a claim, depending on the detail of the policy wording.
With conditions ripe for potential outbreaks in workplaces across the UK, brokers and their clients urgently need to understand where they would stand in the event their premises were affected and what they should do to protect their staff and their business. Brokers who fail to address this, could subsequently be construed as having failed in a duty of care.
The CII’s guide is a valuable point of reference for brokers and intermediaries and includes a best practice guide, which, as Stead says, ‘sets out how brokers can better assist their clients in relation to explaining this insurable threat and thereby financially mitigating the risk should the worst case occur.’
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