Home Features Commercial & Legal Scaffolders – When are you a designer?

Design Liability

Utilising your skills and resources to ensure that a proposed scaffolding concept will work and is safe is not uncommon. Whether you are following industry recognised guidance using your skills, knowledge and resources, you may be accepting higher risks and significant liabilities. Karl Jones at Amicus Insurance outlines some of the implications.

As an expert subcontractor, many main contractors and employers will rely on your experience and expertise by leaving you to create the scaffolding design for their project. By agreeing to do so, they are transferring significant levels of risk to your business and exposing you to potentially ruinous uninsured claims.

Many scaffolders will create scaffolding designs following the guidance set out in TG20:13, but as you are creating the design, then any issues arising from the design will rest with you, even if you follow the guidance thoroughly.

Even if you use external scaffolding designers, they will be downstream of the contractual agreement you have with either the main contractor or employer, so you will get dragged into any legal action initially.  This exposure also means that you should check the scaffold designs yourselves – if anything’s missing (or included) that wasn’t originally specified, then question why it’s been done.

There are other dangers here. Many of you will be familiar with situations where you have been asked to modify a design, for example to make access easier for contractors in a particular area of the site or remove a fan. However, you may not be entirely comfortable with doing this, but you’re under pressure to agree as there’s more work in the pipeline.

Even if you have some insurance cover (more on that later) then you may well have prejudiced any chance of being able to claim, as you’re agreeing to do something that your experience & training tells you it shouldn’t be done.

Your liability insurance might provide some cover if there’s an issue with the design, but the main problem is that there will need to be damage or injury caused, and you will need to have been negligent.  If there’s no damage, but the main contractor or employer wants you to take down your scaffolding & get another contractor in, then there could be some significant costs involved, especially if it’s a project where your errors delay completion.

Professional indemnity works on a much wider trigger – generally any error or omission or civil liability, so you don’t actually have to be negligent for the policy to respond, nor does there have to have been any injury or property damage caused.

As ever, it’s up to each of you to decide if the insurance premiums represent good value, but it’s worth speaking to your broker so you can make an informed decision.


Karl Jones

Client Development Director

Amicus Insurance Solutions Limited

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