Custom Frame Builders Association and Public Liability Insurance

Custom Frame Builders Association and Public Liability Insurance

Several informal meetings have taken place between Custom Frame Builders across the UK with a view to establishing an Association. At present there is no formal organisation established but an intention exists to make it such, primarily as a talking shop for exchange of information. Additionally it has been proposed to offer a EN/ISO test of frame integrity in conjunction with Reynolds. It has been mooted it may cost around £300 for 631 tube set and test and the frame can be lugged or fillet brazed or maybe Tig welded. Regarding entry to the Association, the only clear cut criteria which has been agreed by all the participants is Public Liability Insurance. The long term structure and function of such an organisation I am sure will evolve over the years but I would like to think there may be a place for Amateur and semi-Professional builders within it. The current forum is being co-ordinated by Phil Taylor, organiser of Bespoke Bristol but he is keen not to take responsibility for fully organising an association as he obviously has enough on his plate with the show. As a preliminary move I decided I would have to investigate Liability insurance as even though I have never sold a frame for profit it would be nice to have the cover and indeed even making frames for friends and family it is a sad fact of life that one would be wise to have some indemnity against frame failure leading to accidents etc.

PUBLIC and PRODUCT LIABILITY INSURANCE FOR BICYCLE FRAMEBUILDERS
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After much frustration I was eventually able to get liability insurance through a specialist broker, viz: Towergate Insurance Services. They also operate as the insurance broker for The Federation of Small Businesses and the policy I have taken out is a FSB Business from home, Home Protector policy, designed for small business and tradespeople working from home.
Essentially there are Three types of Liability Insurance:
Employers Liability, which is to protect your employees and not relevant to me and probably to most small custom builders who are self employed or hobbyists.
Public Liability, which is to protect yourself against the possibility of claims of faulty workmanship and also injury or accident to persons who may be visiting your home or premises in connection with your work.
Product Liability, which is to protect you against claims against defects in the products you sell or give away!
Initially I felt I could get away with just Product Liability Insurance but in the final analysis I had to accept a policy with both Public and Product Liability as the Insurers feel the two need to go together. Furthermore the policies are designed NOT to be stand-alone i.e. they have to be tagged on to a buildings and contents policy or a workshop buildings and contents policy if your workshop is separate from your residence. It is also apparently illegal to double insure your property so for practical purposes you have to really go with the single insurer. I therefore now have a single policy for buildings, contents and public and product liability. It also covers my tools, jig etc and stock for work in progress. The policy is underwritten by AXA. The only additional condition placed on the cover was that I had to keep my flammable substances (Oxygen, Propane and Gas Flux), in metal containers, which fortunately they are in anyway. From my experiences with several brokers who are obviously communicating second hand with the underwriters I feel there is not often a full grasp of what custom frame building is about! What also surprised me was there was no interrogation of either my qualifications or my experience of frame building.
Regarding cost, it isn’t cheap. You will have to decide for yourself if it represents good value for money. I live in a standard semi-detached house with integral garage. I previously had paid circa £200 for buildings and contents insurance. With the Personal and Product Liability added it is now circa £600. Towergate also charge an initial £50 Broker’s fee. I would add that because of the way I approached my enquiries my existing buildings insurer (Legal and General) took umbrage at the fact I had certain equipment and gas on the premises and promptly cancelled my policy, even though there was nothing kept from them in the original proposal. I feel if you compare costs with Car Insurance it probably represents reasonable value for money, but hopefully I may be able to think of ways to reduce the premium in the future
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Where did I have No success in obtaining a quote?:
Swinton Commercial, they spent several days looking only to fail to quote.
Butterworth Spengler, probably the largest cycle insurance broker who arrange Insurance for both the CTC and ACT (Association of Cycle Traders) did try but declared their two underwriters (one of which was Zurich) did not insure framebuilders.

I would obviously be interested in any comments, especially experience of alternative insurers.

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4 Comments

Charlie Merivale

about 2 years ago

Dear Stephen, thank you for this post, and for all your hard work. It would be a relief if 'amateurs and hobbyists' were given room within the proposals. I hope that it is not a move to a closed shop, and restrictive practice. Thank you also for the insurance info. They certainly aim to get their pound of flesh.. Kind regards, Charlie.

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Stephen Hilton

about 2 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly Charlie

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Peter Butterfield

about 2 years ago

I'm buying a local bike shop which currently does frame building which i intend to carry on. Butterworth Spengler were Ok with this in their quote so the above comments surprise me. I have undertaken am accredited H+S course in oxy fuel handling which helps.

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Stephen Hilton

about 2 years ago

Thanks for the information Peter. I can't say I am surprised because I know of at least one other person who has the same arrangement as you. Reading between the lines I suspect that their insurers are OK if you have a bike shop and will tag on the liability insurance to that. I did not receive a comprehensive explanation as to why they would not accept me but I think it's probably an issue of tagging it on to something else as I had to do in taking out Buildings and Contents insurance to get my policy.

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