Engineering plays a hugely important part of the UK economy, accounting for more than a quarter of the UK’s total GDP and nearly 50,000 contractors working in the sector.
The vast majority of engineering contractors are experienced professionals and rarely make mistakes – but understanding the risks involved with each project is important for contractors to ensure they aren’t sued by their client.
What sort of thing might prompt a claim against an engineer?
Contractors need to be aware that their work could be challenged by their client if it is not fit for purpose.
Imagine a scenario in which a technical design for the wiring of a building or piece of machinery is later found to be flawed. The wiring might be unsuitable or the machinery might malfunction. Depending on the scale of the project and the circumstances involved, issues such as this could be extremely costly to fix. They might even cause an issue which causes someone to be seriously injured and wishes to claim damages. Tracing the collapse of a construction or breakdown of machinery back to flawed figures in the design stage is likely to put the spotlight on the engineer who drew them up and spark a compensation claim. Electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and Design and CAD engineers need to be especially careful of this potential outcome.
How can engineers guard against claims?
Engineers often fit into one part of a large-scale project – especially if they are a contractor – and it’s important that they not only do their role to a high standard but also that they keep a record of the work they have done, especially since a claim may not be brought against them until a long while after work is carried out.
Here’s what to bear in mind:
Paperwork: keep a paper trail and good records of all the work you have done. Don’t allow yourself to be caught out by an unfair claim. If you can demonstrate that you have full and accurate records, you will show yourself to be professional and have the information you need to back your case up.
Time management: It’s important not to make silly mistakes with your work, especially when it comes to providing important recommendations or instructions for others involved in the project. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you manage your own time effectively and avoid causing delays that could delay the project and be blamed on you. Give yourself time to complete a task to the required standard – and to check any technical work you’ve carried out.
Training: keeping on top of the latest working practices is vitally important for contract engineers. By ensuring that you are updating your knowledge and skills to keep on top of these you can avoid making mistakes, stay sharp and avoid falling foul of the latest legislation in your field. A well-trained engineer will also be able to identify risks and take the appropriate measures required to stop them becoming big issues in the first place.
Communication: Engineers have to ensure that they communicate properly with anyone else involved in a large project. Failing to clearly pass on vital information that might be needed to accompany work – such as annotations to designs or further instructions for the use and maintenance of equipment – may cause complications or faults down the line. Keep a record of any such information you supply alongside the rest of your paperwork.
Insurance: With all of these risks, it’s clear you’ll need some form of insurance to cover your work as an engineer. These risks shouldn’t leave you in fear of doing your job – you just need to be aware of them and build in a sensible level of support to mitigate them. Arranging specialist engineers insurance can protect you against the unforeseen, including professional indemnity insurance should you be accused of professional negligence.
Clear communication, a robust record-keeping system, regular refresher training, effective time management and the right insurance policy can help engineers to both prevent claims from occurring in the first place and protect them should they happen.
Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team.