• Alison Hodge
    Do we as ringers know what insurance cover we have when ringing? Do you know what cover is provided or what restrictions there may be in the church policy, guild / association insurance etc?
  • A J Barnfield
    I, for one, don't and it is one of my big worries; particularly third party cover. Whenever I have looked cover provided by guild/associations the cover always seems minimal. It is one reason why I would like to be in a national membership organisation with decent insurance cover and legal back up.
  • John Harrison
    in most cases I suspect the answer is no. But perhaps a more important question, and one they should answer first, is have they thought about what insurance cover they need (related to ringing).
  • Roger Booth
    I think the vast majority of ringers totally misunderstand insurance for ringing and ringers, and many Guilds and Associations spend significant sums of money unnecessarily. Marcus Booth of Ecclesiastical gave an excellent presentation at the ART Conference a few years ago, and a recording is available on ART’s YouTube channel. The presentation was repeated at the CCCBR Roadshow at Goldsmiths.

    I am not an insurer, but my experience comes from the other side of the fence. Rather than start by arranging a policy I think it is important for ringers to start by considering the risks and undertaking a risk assessment.

    Typical situations could be:

    1. Jane a member of the Sunday band at Little Snoring slips down the worn tower steps after Sunday morning ringing. There is no handrail or rope to hold on to, so she falls a long way and breaks several bones. The worn steps have previously been reported to the PCC, but no action has been taken.

    2. John the steeplekeeper at Little Snoring needs to check the ropes in his tower for wear. He goes up alone and without a mobile phone and slips off the frame and seriously injures himself. It is many hours before he is found and as a consequence of the delay and his injuries he has to take significant time off work.

    3. There is a tall vertical wooden ladder up the bells at Little Snoring, without any hoops or a fall arrest system. The top of the ladder is over 16 feet high above a stone floor and a ringer falls off while attempting to lift the heavy trap door at the top, and is seriously injured. There is no risk assessment in place for use of the ladder, or any routine inspection of it.

    4. Peter, a member of the local band at Little Snoring, is electrocuted and dies when switching off a faulty fan heater after practice. No PAT testing regime is in place.

    5. John the steeplekeeper is concerned that pigeons have got in to the tower. After replacing the wire netting he removes the pigeon droppings and disposes them. A few days later he becomes seriously ill. No guidance or PPE has been provided by the PCC.

    6. James, another member of the local band rings up the tenor on practice night. Unbeknown to the ringers the Vicar (or churchwarden) has let telecomms engineers up the tower. They climbed up the ladder past the tenor and dislodged the slider as they hoisted up their equipment. As they were not ringers they did not know to replace it. No one checked after their visit. James is relatively tall and it is a heavy bell and he had not let the last coil out, when the bell was up. As a consequence when he tried to set the bell, James was lifted several feet into the air and fell awkwardly, breaking several bones, as well as receiving rope burns.

    None of these are Guild or Association events. The point I am making is that the PCC have duties under the Health & Safety at Work Act which include the provision of:
    a. a safe system of work;
    b. a safe place of work.
    In addition, the PCC have duties under other legislation and common law.

    Therefore, they usually have Employers Liability Insurance, typically with £5 or £10 million cover. As Marcus explained in his presentation, although ‘volunteers’ members of the local band will be treated as ‘employees’ and covered by the PCC’s insurance. In addition, the PCC will also have Public Liability Insurance, which will cover visiting ringers, and other people who could be expected to visit the church (e.g. guests at a wedding).

    Therefore Guilds and Association with their own cover might be able to claim against this, but there is usually a clause saying that they will only be covered if there is no other insurance in place. If any of these incidents happened the insurers would then make a claim against the PCC.

    Therefore in effect Guild and Association Insurance only covers incidents at Guild and Association events, and for which the Guild and Association is responsible – e.g. despite being warned not to do so, someone lets off the clock-hammers whilst the bells are still swinging and this smashes some wheels and cracks a bell.

    Some Guilds and Associations also have personal accident insurance, but this is very expensive and the benefits are very low. £20,000 for a death would not cover the mortgage payments for a young person who is the main breadwinner for a family. As people’s personal financial circumstance vary significantly it is better that they have their own personal accident cover (and many do already).

    The Sufffolk Guild paid £390.36 for Members Accident Insurance (up to £5k) and £347.03 for Public Liability Insurance and £103.60 for Property Damage insurance in 2021 InsuranceSummary20201006.pdf (<a href="http://suffolkbells.org.uk" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">suffolkbells.org.uk</a>)

    The MCA&LDG Paid £1,045 for Personal Accident Insurance (up to (£20k) in 2021. It does not hold Public Liability Insurance Insurance (bellringing.london)

    The Surrey Association paid £533.99 for £1m of Public Liability Insurance in 2021 but holds no Personal Accident Insurance Insurance - The Surrey Association of church bell ringers (surreybellringers.org.uk)

    The Gloucester & Bristol DA paid £489 in 2021 so that the Association - and its paid up members as individuals - are insured for £2,000,000 against third party claims for being negligent whilst acting as G&B members. Members are NOT insured against personal injury at all… …they would need to check this with their own PCC. Association Information (bellsgandb.org.uk)

    This information is all available with a simple Google search. It demonstrates that there are vast differences between what societies pay and what is covered.

    Completing this exercise and comparing all societies would be a very useful exercise and help societies improve value for money for their members.
  • A J Barnfield
    Consider the following hypothetical scenarios: I turn up at a practice. It is not an association event, I am not a member of the band. I am asked to stand by a ringer to keep them right in a touch of Bob Doubles. It quickly becomes clear that the ringer is not a safe handler. They miss the sally, get tangled in the rope and are seriously injured. Maybe I intervene maybe I don't. Either way they sue me.
    After the ambulance and rescue service have left we decide to ring the bells down. This time I miss my sally, The stay and slider stay in tact but a gudgeon breaks, the bell hits the side of the frame and cracks. Again I am sued.
    I am not covered by my household insurance.
    In the above circumstances what insurance is covering my legal fees, costs, fines and compensation payable if the location is a) a church and b) a secular building. Am I relying on any insurance cover that might, or might not, be provided by one of the ringing organisations to which I belong and might the overall situation within ringing be regarded as satisfactory?
  • Simon Linford
    How many members of the MC&LDG think that the Personal Accident policy pays out to them personally if they have an accident? One of the things Marcus was saying recently was that these PA policies are in the name of the association as beneficiary, and so it is the association, which won't actually have suffered a loss, which get any payment. Policies may vary though, and some may be written such that an individual subscribed member is the beneficiary, but many are not.
  • John Harrison
    I find it hard to believe that a personal accident policy would not pay the person who had the accident. The society can't suffer an injury like loss of limb.
    The ODG policy is certainly described in terms of benefits to members, and claims made by members. See: http://ODG.org.uk/insurance/
  • A J Barnfield
    Not much cover for the over 70s, which must be about half of ringers these days.
  • John Harrison
    I believe the age variation is based on the likelihood of loss of income
  • A J Barnfield
    Seems reasonable. How are we doing generally for third party cover for over 70s?
  • Roger Booth
    Both of the scenarios that you paint are somewhat extreme, but are the sort of thing that lead societies take out some form of insurance. However, as we have seen above although members in all four Guilds and Associations above are “insured” in practice whether they are covered, or not, will depend on what the incident is and which policy is in place. And, even if it is covered, the amount that can be claimed will vary significantly. Also, it may already be covered by another policy (e.g. the PCC's) and it is fraudulent to claim against more than one policy for the same incident.

    There are many different insurance products available in the marketplace, but many ringers do not appreciate the differences. There is some excellent advice on the SMWG website, but it is not easy to find. https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Insurance-v3.pdf . However, as I explained in my earlier posting, you really need to start with an understanding of property law and the potential hazards, and then undertake a risk assessment.

    You need to consider who has a ‘duty of care’ and who has been negligent – Donahue V Stevenson (the snail in the Ginger Beer case). In your example of the learner, would it be reasonable to expect you as a visitor to have such a wide duty of care? wasn’t the tower captain who asked you to supervise a learner negligent?; or was it the person who taught the learner to ring in the first place?; or the PCC in not having a competent tower captain or teacher? Whilst the learner could try and sue you, they would stand more success suing the PCC, who have a duty of care towards their ringers and should be insured to cover this risk. The PCC should also protect you as a visitor, who has permission to be there.

    Similarly, if the gudgeon breaks rather than the stay, this tends to indicate a problem with the gudgeon itself. Has it been machined correctly (bell-hangers duty of care) or has the steeple-keeper fitted an over-sized replacement stay? What system is in place to ensure that the steeple-keeper has been trained properly?

    As the SMWG advice explains, the situations that you suggest are extremely rare and who is responsible can be extremely complicated. In both cases the PCC (or building owner in the case of a secular building) have duties of care. Normally they will have Employers Liability Insurance to cover their own ringers, and Public Liability Insurance to cover damage by visitors, who have permission to be there. Sometimes, depending on what insurance is in place, your Guild or Association Insurance may cover these incidents as well. Therefore, if you are not personally insured, why would someone bother to sue you, unless you have been reckless, ignored those in charge, and rung without permission.
  • A J Barnfield
    Thank you for a detailed and helpful reply. I'll carry on trying to keep out of trouble.
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