Engineering insurance and inspection services

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Historical perspective

The Industrial Revolution was a time of great change. Many of the new machines and equipment which were invented were powered by boilers and other pressure plant. The early availability of engineering insurance coupled with inspections was not, of itself, enough to ensure that most boilers would be safe. Boiler explosions continued to happen – often with devastating results.

This changed with the enactment of the Boiler Explosions Act 1882. The act required that boiler explosions were investigated and provided for severe penalties if the explosion was caused by fault on the part of the owner.

This encouraged owners of boilers to arrange for their plant to be insured and inspected and this led to a reduction in the number of explosions and the resultant mayhem.

Development of legislation and inspections

In the years since then, this type of legislation has continued and expanded to other areas of industrial health and safety and engineer surveyors now inspect and report on a wide range of plant and equipment. It follows that engineer surveyors should possess a recognised engineering technical qualification.

The primary legislation for health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. That, and subsequent regulations made under the act, are less prescriptive than the old legislation and place greater emphasis on creating a safe place of work, placing responsibility on the owner and others to assess risks and implement a safety programme. Engineering insurers and their surveyors can offer practical support to employers on how to discharge these obligations.

The Boiler Explosions Act has, through a series of changes, been updated and replaced and now it is mainly the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 which require to be followed. The regulations require that there is a ‘written scheme of examination’ for the pressure system. This is prepared (or certified) by a ‘competent person’ – a suitably qualified engineer surveyor falls into this category. The written scheme sets out the frequency and nature of the examinations which have to be carried out. These include thorough examinations with the plant stripped down and working examinations to test the protective devices and controls.

Legislation which requires inspection of plant and equipment has moved beyond boilers. The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) deal with the inspections which need to be carried out on lifting equipment and stipulate the requirement for a written scheme of examination and the intervals at which thorough examinations are required.

The Electricity and Work Regulations 1989 set out the requirements for the periodic inspection and testing for electrical plant and equipment.

In addition, engineer surveyors carry out inspections of power presses, local exhaust ventilation plant and also carry out asbestos and noise surveys.

In the past 150 years, the nature and type of inspections carried out by insurance engineer surveyors has expanded and developed and has made a significant contribution to the prevention of loss of life and damage.

Inspection reports

The days when engineering insurers produced vast volumes of inspection reports are numbered. Modern technology allows for statutory inspection reports to be created and distributed electronically.

For example, HSB Engineering Insurance Limited ( has developed TRAIN (Technical Report Advanced Information Network). Items of plant, identified by the engineer surveyor, as requiring repair can be easily and quickly recognised, management reports can be prepared for individual locations and across the whole organisation and ‘inspection due’ dates are easily ascertained. HSB offer unrestricted multi user access to the TRAIN system and will provide necessary training and support.

Engineering insurers should, of course, be notified about any new equipment which requires to be covered or inspected but, during their visits, engineer surveyors can be expected to keep an eye open for any new equipment which they haven’t been told about and will inspect this and report as necessary so that it can be added to the plant schedule.

Change of insurer

It is important to ensure that if you change your engineering insurance and inspection providers that you continue to have access to historic records of inspections, written schemes of examination and items of plant and equipment. You should make this a contractual requirement at the outset when you arrange cover and inspections. If you haven’t, make sure that access to this information is secured before you change.

Insurance covers

As well as carrying out inspections, engineering insurers provide cover for breakdown and sudden and unforeseen damage to lifts and plant and equipment. For boilers and pressure plant this is extended to include cover for damage caused by explosion and collapse.

The technical expertise of engineering insurers means that they are well placed to provide cover for a range of risks including contractors plant (owned and hired in), computers (and related business interruption), deterioration of refrigerated stock and contractors all risks.

Insurance and inspection

It is usually recognised that insurance plays an important role in the health of the economy. However, we should not overlook the vital contribution to the personal safety of the population made by engineering insurers and their surveyors during the past 150 years. Happily, society as a whole benefits from the symbiotic relationship of insurance and inspections.

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