Lloyd’s Defends Insurers Against ‘Spoilsport’ Image

By Charles E. Boyle | January 27, 2008

An increasingly common complaint against the insurance industry charges that it is largely responsible for the disappearance of traditional events and activities due to the unavailability and/or the increasing cost of liability coverage.

In an article on the Lloyd’s Web site (www.lloyds.com) author Garry Booth points out that “recent stories from the papers, and many others, paint a poor picture of insurers: spoilsports, jobsworths, destroyers of tradition and preventers of fun. But like much maligned health and safety officers, insurers are being unfairly targeted.”

Booth added that “many of the stories are apocryphal, or have nothing to do with insurance, and in other cases, the insurers are not banning the event or action, they are simply not covering it.”

As a recent example in the article concerns pantomime players, who were forbidden to throw candy into the audience of children attending their performance, as they had traditionally done.

“The theatre’s public liability insurers said that it probably wouldn’t be covered in the event of someone getting hurt because throwing a sweet would be viewed as an act of negligence rather than an accident,” said Lloyd’s. “The theatre scrapped the practice because it was worried that it would be sued and would have to pay the compensation itself.”

Insurers aren’t alone as targets of public outrage. “The health and safety sector has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous slurs for years,” Booth wrote. “Health and safety is often used as a way of pushing through unpopular decisions and sometimes has become a handy scapegoat.

“But the sector is fighting back. The Health and Safety Executive has begun a ‘Myth of the Month’ feature on its Web site, which explains that stories such as children being made to wear goggles to play conkers [a game played with chestnut shells on strings], workers being banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office, and trapeze artists required to wear hard hats, are all made-up stories with not a grain of truth.”

According to Ray Hurst, president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), a lot of these stories are simply untrue. Health and safety organizations have not called for banning Christmas lights and firemen from climbing ladders, nor suppressing bonfire night celebrations and changing of street names.

Lloyd’s pointed out that the “health and safety organizations have gone on the offensive, taking a pro-active role in explaining what they do — and more importantly — what they don’t do. It has also acknowledged the role of the media in shaping public perception, and has created its own positive health and safety stories — such as the extensive media coverage gained by IOSH entering a team in this year’s World Conker Championships, to counter all the ‘bonkers conkers’ stories.”

The article said “insurers need to take the same proactive approach in order to counter all those stories of insurers being spoilsports. Insurers must blow their own trumpet and show the positive side of insurance — how it allows events to go on, allows films to be made, allows people to do daft things for charity, to protect people from ‘compensation culture’ and to have fun knowing that unforeseen consequences are protected against.

“At this time of year, when the ‘meanie insurers’ stories in the media reach their peak over Santas, pantos and Christmas decorations, it is perhaps time for insurers to make a New Year’s Resolution: to show how insurance allows people to have fun, not stop it.”

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