September 2021 was a landmark month for all the wrong reasons, with businesses and consumers having to face up to further and significant challenges.
Running on empty
It hardly needs to be said that fuel forecourts were running dry for many; the much-publicised explanation being that driver shortages are to blame, with panic buying leading to a crisis.
The Government’s response to the fuel crisis mirrors a June 2011 document, last updated in January 2021.
Businesses affected by the fuel shortages, may find the Government-prepared 2008 Business Continuity Management for Fuel Shortages document particularly helpful, faced with the present supply disruption.
This document may be a few years old, but it resonates well with recent challenges.
For some, bunkering fuel has been their contingency plan. Those bunkering diesel in particular, do of course need to ensure they comply fully with all prevailing regulations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) [link https://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/index.htm provide an overview of the regulations for storing all flammable liquids, dusts, gases and solids.
Gas prices rocket
Before the fuel crisis struck, it was the gas price crisis that hit the headlines, with a wide range of reasons being blamed. The International Energy Agency provided this statement on the recent developments in natural gas and electricity markets.
Those wanting to know what the Government are likely to do in response to that growing crisis can read the national emergency plan for downstream gas and electricity, which was revised in 2019.
Those traditionally reliant on an affordable gas supply to power their business, should be giving careful thought to what may lie ahead, not just from a gas price perspective, but also from the point of view of the need to decarbonise industry and what forms of alternative energy may be suitable.
HGV driver shortages, exacerbated by COVID and Brexit, have led to a distribution crisis with systemic issues needing to be overcome before the 100,000 personnel shortage is resolved. The RHA report on the driver shortage gives more detail of the factors which are currently affecting the driver shortage.
Faced with the alarming shortage of drivers, it’s entirely understandable that firms will do all they can to get new drivers behind the wheel as quickly as possible, as well as getting the most they possibly can from those they already employ. But this comes with risks that you need to manage carefully. These include making sure that:
- Every driver meets your commercial motor insurer’s requirements, especially regarding age and experience, and accident and conviction history
- Driving licences are regularly checked and have the required vehicle category. Licence checking is available through Towergate’s Safedrive business
- New drivers receive the same training and meet the same exacting standards as required of your existing drivers
- You don’t breach the prevailing drivers’ hours regulations. A breach of those regulations could obviously have very serious consequences, particularly if a driver was to fall asleep at the wheel
- You’re not in breach of employment contracts and legislation. For those without their own HR specialist, it’s an ideal time to use the 24/7 business legal helpline that comes usually for free with almost every Commercial Legal Expenses Insurance policy (and with some Management Liability policies too)
- Making sure that in tempting drivers to join your business, you don’t inadvertently discriminate against your current workforce. Again, take specialist HR advice.
- Provide your staff with all the support they need to manage stress which for many, in these difficult times, is becoming an ever-greater issue. As with legal helplines, many commercial legal expenses policies offer free confidential stress counselling for employees
- Everyone joining your business is who they say they are. Pre-employment checks are always important and may actually even be a requirement of your goods-in-transit insurer. Cutting corners in your haste to get new employees on board could cost your business dearly. Criminal infiltration is a serious risk in times of crisis.
Other steps every Towergate client should take include:
- Making sure you have Management Liability cover. At this time of considerable uncertainty, the responsibility on every directors’ shoulders is growing
- Talking to your usual Towergate contact about comprehensive crime cover. No one likes to think of crime as an inside job, but it does happen, perhaps more often than we think
- Think about how your business can become an even more attractive proposition from a future employee’s perspective; it’s not just about hard cash. Ask your usual Towergate contact about how Towergate Health & Protection [link to https://www.towergatehealthandprotection.co.uk/] can help your overall employment package.
It’s no wonder that having faced COVID-19 and now the fuel, gas and driver crises, many businesses feel rather on the back-foot. The good news is there are steps we can take to help us ‘be prepared’ – to become more resilient in the face of growing uncertainty.
For further insight into those uncertainties, the Government’s 2020 Risk Register Report [link to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-risk-register-2020] detailing the key threats that Government feel may affect us over the next two years, is a great place to start.
This report contains invaluable information about a wide range of systemic threats under the following headings, all of which are relevant to virtually every business:
- Environmental hazards
- Human and animal health
- Major accidents
- Societal risks
- Malicious attacks
- Risks occurring overseas
No-one has a crystal ball to know what the future holds, meaning directors have a responsibility to themselves and their key stakeholders to consider each one of those systemic risks very carefully and to decide what action they should take to ensure future resilience, regardless of what tries next to ‘hit us for six’.
Business insurance from Towergate
At Towergate we don’t just offer traditional insurance broking: we believe that prevention is better than cure. That is why we have our own risk management consultancy focusing on pre-loss mitigation and business continuity, and have developed our own business interruption calculator.
We engage actively with insurers and our clients to obtain protection for businesses of all sizes. Our wide range of covers help protect your organisation should the worst happen.
We are passionate about tackling the unprecedented levels of underinsurance in the UK: watch our video on how to avoid this for your business:
About the author
Mark Brannon Cert CII is a respected industry leader with over 17 years’ industry experience in a variety of roles within the business insurance sector. He works across a wide spectrum of insurance product and policy development, delivery and optimisation for clients, including claims, insurer relationships, marketing and communications, and risk management.