With esculating insurance premiums crippling small contractors, four trade bodies have stepped in to offer cheaper alternatives.
Two more trade bodies are to launch new insurance schemes to help their members encounter rising insurance premiums. The National Federation of Builders is working with an unnamed insurance company to provide affordable employers' liability cover for members.

While the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation is launching a scheme whereby members will pool their premiums and share any profits from a collective pot.

The trade bodies have been forced to take action. Premiums for small and medium-sized firms have gone up by up to 500% in the last few years and the government has been slow to offer assistance. Roofing companies have been particularly badly hit and the rising premiums of roofing contractors has accounted for between 1.7% and 3% of turnover.

In response the National Federation of Roofing Contractors is to launch an insurance scheme with the Electrical Contractors' Insurance Company to provide a new source for Employers' and Public Liability, Professional Indemnity, and other insurance requirements for the federation's members.

There is also another roofing insurance scheme in the offing. The Flat Roofing Alliance is currently working with an insurance broker on reducing premiums for its members.

Firms wanting to join the NASC scheme must demonstrate a good level of investment in health and safety, and training. It is thought that the NFB will demand a similar commitment from its members. This would involve contractors passing a stringent on-site health and safety audit to demonstrate they have minimised risks on site.

There are signs that the government is addressing the trade bodies' concerns. According to Edward Cowan, chief executive of the NFRC, there are now three government enquiries looking into insurance, which will be soon be published. The Department of Work and Pensions is also reviewing the question of employer's liability cover.

In the meantime the building industry may be able to help itself. Accelerating Change, the follow up to Egan's Rethinking Construction report, recommends that project insurance should be used to underwrite a team rather than individual members. At the moment there are insurance policies underwriting the same risk and as a result the industry wastes up to £1bn in policies that aren't necessary.

The project team should also be looking to design out risk at an earlier phase. Sixty per cent of accidents on site result from decisions made before work began. By involving roofing contractors during the design phase, for example, potentially dangerous roof designs could be vetoed by the roofing specialist.