What can go wrong?
Engineers ensure theoretical designs translate into structures or projects that are safe, functional and meet relevant building codes. There are a range of activities to consider; civil engineers, for example, could work on roads or sewerage systems while mechanical engineers might work in the food processing or petrochemical industries.
Common mistakes include structural miscalculations, incorrect specification of materials and failure to deal with noise pollution – all of which can lead to expensive remedial works and in the worst case scenario complete building failure. Claims arising from the negligent installation of a heating ventilation system can be expensive given the impact of the error on the working or trading environment within a building.
Unlike architects, engineers don’t have to buy Professional Indemnity insurance but they are frequently required to have it by clients and other construction professionals with whom they work. Most engineering practices are multi-disciplined and cover should be purchased for all activities.
There is considerable variation in the cover offered by insurers, from negligence-based wordings through to full civil liability, aggregate costs inclusive limits to Any One Claim with costs in addition.
Full pollution cover can be important especially if work is undertaken on structures that have the potential to adversely affect the environment (e.g. waste management plant) or the redevelopment of brownfield sites. Rarely offered as standard, it’s often added in by endorsement and charged for separately.
If work is undertaken as part of a larger project team it’s important to understand any contractual agreements made and their implications on the validity of Professional Indemnity cover, especially where it creates joint and several liability with other parties to the contract.
What are insurers looking for?
Evidence of qualifications and experience and a proven claims track record. Beyond that, basically what they want to understand is what would happen if things went wrong: could it cause serious physical damage or injure lots of people? For this reason large structural and civil engineering projects are considered higher risk than, say, a building services contract, and work in the chemical and nuclear sectors more hazardous than small residential developments.