Risks that painters and decorators should be aware of

A painter and decorator working on a wall in a client's home.

Painters and decorators face daily risks, much like any other tradesman does.

From potential slip and trip hazards to toxic fume inhalation, and from accidental damage to customers’ property to inadvertently creating risks to members of the public, it’s important to be aware of your risks and how you can minimise their potential impact on your business.

Health risks to be aware of

When you’re self-employed, your personal health must be your priority. Chasing increased revenue and shoe-horning work into your schedule can have a slow developing, long-term effect on your physical and mental wellbeing, and on your capacity to complete your job to the best of your ability.

On top of this, there are risks in your profession that can cause injuries and damage to your health, especially if you’re tired and lacking in concentration from overworking.

Professional risks to your decorating business

Your business is exposed to professional risks on a daily basis, and when you’re self-employed it’s your responsibility to ensure your business is safeguarded.

From negotiating with demanding customers, to potentially creating hazards to members of the public, to falling victim of theft of your tools and other equipment. You can find yourself on the wrong end of a claim, even if you feel that you’ve done nothing wrong.

Painters and decorators are exposed to a range of daily risks including, but not limited to:

  • Inhaling dust and toxic fumes (paint and turpentine) from working in poorly ventilated rooms and buildings.
  • Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) from repeated daily activities and from potentially working in cramped spaces.
  • Slip, trip and fall accidents from spilt paint, working at height (up a ladder or scaffold), falling over equipment that is left on the floor.
  • Skin problems from working with caustic liquids and other irritants.
  • Unsatisfied customers making compensation claims.
  • Injury claims from members of the public.
  • Theft of essential tools, equipment and trades materials.

This list is indicative of what a painter and decorator needs to be aware of, but how can you mitigate the risks so you can work almost worry free?

How can painters and decorators protect themselves?

Protecting yourself against risk requires more than awareness and vigilance, because accidents will occur no matter how careful you are. So, you need to look at how you can protect your business and your own financial welfare as a priority should the worst happen.

Risk assessments for each job you work on are vital. It’s important to be prepared in advance so you can plan where you’re going to park, where you are going to safely deposit your debris, what safety measures you need to put in place if someone has to work at height, how much ground cover and dust sheets you’ll require to ensure property isn’t damaged…to mention but a few.

You also need to ensure you carry adequate insurance cover in case something does go wrong.

We highlight three key insurance policies that can help you to look after yourself, your employees, your customers, and members of the public.

1. Protecting your own personal welfare – As mentioned earlier, there are a number of health hazards that could cause you to fall ill, resulting in some time laid off from working. Not being able to work could have detrimental effect on your business revenue as well as your own earnings, if you’re not adequately covered.

Occupational personal accident insurance (OPA) will cover you if injuries and/or illnesses sustained during your job stop you from being able to work. The policy can pay out a lump sum or an ongoing payment to cover loss of earnings.

2. Ensuring your customers and members of the public are covered – Public liability insurance (PL) is arguably the most important form of insurance protection for trades professionals. Any business that deals with members of the public benefits from carrying this type of cover.

The policy provides cover for the costs of defending personal injury claims, property damage claims, and medical expenses associated with a claim. Examples of which could include paint being accidentally spilled onto a carpet or onto the floor which is then walked around the home that you’re decorating. Or worse, your client slips on a paint spill and is injured as a result.

3. Taking care of your employees – If you employ staff, then you are responsible for their welfare whilst they are in your employ. What is not always clear to employers is that you can also be responsible for the welfare of your previous employees, should they fall ill because of work they did for you, even if they have long-since moved on.

If an employee or ex-employee can prove that an illness they are suffering from has been caused by the work they undertook whilst in your employ, then they could claim for compensation. If you are not adequately covered, this could cause you and your business a financial headache.

Employers’ liability insurance (EL) will cover the cost of defending or settling a claim from an employee who has suffered injury or disease as a result of the work they’ve done for you. Cover can include medical costs, legal costs, and loss of income, as well as other related damages.

It’s important to remember that EL insurance is one of very few insurances that is mandatory by law. If you employ staff you must carry an EL policy with a minimum of £5 million of cover, as per the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.

For every day that you do not carry EL insurance you can be fined up to £2,500. If you do not have a certificate of insurance that is accessible for staff or you refuse to make it available to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors when they ask for it, you can also be fined up to £1,000.

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