Several informal meetings took 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 existed to make it such, primarily as a talking shop for exchange of information. Additionally it had been proposed to offer a EN/ISO test of frame integrity in conjunction with Reynolds. It had been mooted it may cost around £300 for 631 tube set and test and the frame could be lugged or fillet brazed or maybe Tig welded. Regarding entry to the Association, the only clear cut criteria which was been agreed by all the participants was Public Liability Insurance. The long term structure and function of such an organisation I am sure would evolve over the years but I would like to think there may be a place for Amateur and semi-Professional builders within it. Unfortunately I have heard nothing more about this subject for some time and am under the district impression it has stalled. From my own point of view 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. I have now updated my previous post on the subject to reflect new information.
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 initially took out was 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 my policy was not designed to be stand alone i.e. it had 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 I had 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 was 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. After two years the broker offered me a different policy, for a similar price, with Ageas. Presumably AXA pulled out, though I was assured by another experienced broker that this was not unusual in the insurance market. My new policy did not specify I had to keep all flammable substances in metal containers but insisted I had a fire extinguisher under a service contract! (see later).
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 used to pay circa £200 for buildings and contents insurance. With the Personal and Product Liability added it is now circa £700. Towergate also charge an initial £50 Broker’s fee. I would add that because of the way I approached my enquiries my original 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.
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. This seems to be nonsense as they have arranged insurance for some builders (see comment below) but it would seem like you have to have a retail business as well.
Walker Midgley, who are in fact now part of Towergate Insurance, were unable to quote despite providing many specialist policies for model engineers.
I have since received further helpful information from Hywel Evans, (https://hevanscc.com), who received a positive response from two other brokers, viz:
Insync insurance (https://insyncinsurance.co.uk), who offered a policy with Zenith, described as a small tradesman policy. He was able to get insurance for Public and Product Liability as a stand alone product, which I have since discovered is the most usual scenario. It excludes USA and Canada which can be added at extra cost.
Knighthood Corporate (http://www.knighthoodcorporate.com) who insure various parts of the bike industry and exhibited an interest in quoting if necessary.
DPI Insurance (https://www.dpi-insurance.co.uk) based in Bury, Greater Manchester (formerly Lancashire), have expressed an interest in the field following comments from Michael Burns below. I shall certainly be giving them a try as they are relatively local to me.
I would obviously be interested in any additional comments, especially experience of alternative insurers.
A note about fire extinguishers
My new Ageas policy insists I have a dry powder fire extinguisher of at least 3kg in my workshop and that it be subject to an annual maintenance contract. I was initially alarmed by this as a web search suggested the national organisations offering contracts would charge a high price. In the end I was lucky to find local business: Lancashire Fire Extinguishers. (https://www.lancashire-fire-extinguishers.co.uk/#)
The owner Chris, came to my house on a Saturday morning and exchanged my 6kg extinguisher (which was due for changing as they last about 5 years) gave me all the appropriate certification and a sign. He charged me only for the extinguisher, which seemed to be similar to what it would have cost me at a cheap retailer and will return in a year to retest for around £20. This was a result and gives peace of mind. Thoroughly recommended if you live in Lancashire.
- Association of British Insurers Guidance on Employers Liability Insurance
- Association of British Insurers Guidance on Public liability Insurance https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/business-insurance/liability-insurance/public-liability-insurance/
- Association of British Insurers Guidance on Product Liability Insurance