Insurance for Amateur Radio Cluba
An investigative article by WA Amateur Radio News
The topic of insurance for radio clubs is both complex and varied. Following some recent revelations regarding coverage (or lack thereof) with the WIA Affiliated Insurance we felt it would be useful to provide readers with some information on this topic.
In keeping with insurance industry culture, nothing in this article should be construed as advice and clubs should make their own enquiries. Hopefully this article will at least provide your club members and committee with some talking points as well as providing some clarification.
Broadly speaking there are three types of insurance Amateur Radio clubs will consider:
This covers any buildings a club may own. Building insurance can cover your building for loss or damage caused by insured events, such as fire, flood, storm, theft and power surge burnout.
This provides cover for club assets (not buildings). Contents insurance covers the financial cost of repairing or replacing your club’s possessions and furnishings, such as curtains, furniture, white goods, equipment, TV, computers and other electrical appliances, clothing, jewellery, sporting equipment and even toys. It may even cover your tower and antennas, but you’d need to check this with your insurer.
Public Liability Insurance
Public liability insurance covers you for third party death or injury. It helps protect you and your club when you’re liable for negligence. For example, if your club causes: injury or death, such as your food making a person sick, personal injury resulting from use or misuse of club equipment and maybe even accidental injuries, such as tripping over an antenna cable.
It is easy to assume that Public Liability Insurance is all-encompassing. And anecdotal evidence suggests some clubs assumed they have coverage for “everything” under the WIA arranged Public Liability Insurance.
Many clubs use the WIA referral for Public Liability Insurance. Following a change in the arrangements for insurance, the WIA has announced a new provider, GippsInsure.
In the course of our enquiries we were informed that “The previous (WIA) insurance only covered third parties, not club members at all. This is why we sought new coverage for clubs (sic)” (Ref: email from WIA Secretary, 13 June 2023).
Clubs, and their members, have been very fortunate indeed that there has been no need for claims under the old policy. For many years, it is likely clubs have been working with the assumption that the WIA insurance covered their own members. In spite of an advertised benefit of membership being “Public Liability Insurance” for your local club, many would have assumed this included members. It seems this has not been the case.
WA Amateur Radio News recently wrote to the Broker seeking clarifications on the new policy.
We received the following responses.
|Sector events held at premises hired by the insured (not at the normal place of business) – e.g. we host a symposium over a weekend – we hire a public hall and host presentations, demonstrations of radio equipment, antenna etc.||Policy has an Events endorsements added to policy schedule – Excludes: any event with more than 250 attendees unless agreed by Keystone. For full details of the endorsement refer to schedule|
|Outdoor events such as field days||As above – if hosting/ organising
Trade Fairs, Shows and Markets
3.11 Keystone will indemnify the Insured under the Insuring Clause or the Extensions for any claim in respect of the Insured’s attendance at a conference, trade fair, show or other similar event.
|Liability associated with the loading and unloading of vehicles at events||PDS Exclusions Page 11. Motor Vehicles 5.29 – cover added back in – refer to PDS|
|Using public facilities such as BBQ, picnic areas at club sponsored events||As above|
|Public liability when Performing maintenance on antenna towers and antennas at the top of radio towers and masts||Excluded: Those that carry out Installation of antennas on commercial communication sites themselves.|
We then attended the WIA facilitated Q&A session with the Broker, Steven Bingham from GippsInsure.
Mr Bingham was helpful and explained that dealing with the WIA, clubs and amateur radio had been a journey of learning, as both he, and the Insurance Underwriters came to terms with our hobby and its unique insurance requirements. He was also clear that the information provided in the session was general in nature and any specifics must be answered by the underwriters.
When clubs complete their application forms it is incumbent on the club to be honest with the Broker and Underwriter regarding their business and activities.
The following clarifications were provided:
- Broadly speaking the policy provides Public Liability coverage Australia wide for meetings, symposiums, swap meets and sausage sizzles.
- The policy does not differentiate between WIA members and non-members
- Members of the public are covered
- Any event (in this case a Hamfest) with more than 250 attendees must receive additional endorsement by the insurer. As an example, one club requested an endorsement for an additional 100 attendees, and the increase in premium was in the order of $150 per year.
- Unincorporated clubs are not eligible for cover; they can’t enter into contracts, and this includes insurance contracts.
The policy does not cover property or contents. Your repeaters, radios, towers, and club rooms are not covered by this policy. You will need separate contents and building policies if you require such coverage.
Some of the more complex scenarios were then raised, such as club members working on club infrastructure, such as towers, masts, and antennas. Other questions related to club equipment (e.g. a repeater in a shared site) causing damage to other users’ equipment. The questions centred around public liability coverage in the event of a misadventure resulting in damage to property or persons.
We have also seen and heard of potentially dangerous activities such as:
- Members climbing towers in running shoes with no hardhats, personal protective equipment (PPE) or harnesses. Often times, there is no or minimal risk mitigation
- No consideration for the Work Health and Safety Bill with regards to working at heights, special certifications or qualifications and documented procedures for safety
- Ladders on the roofs of vans and trailers to install lights and equipment at Hamfests
- Limited or no OH&S supervision at events where inherently risky tasks are being undertaken.
One attendee works in the communications industry and informed those present of the following requirements when working on towers in a commercial setting:
- Working at heights: any work over two metres requires Working at Heights qualifications
- Elevated platforms considerations
- Risk management: need a plan to recover a person from the top of a tower.
- Use of harnesses, and compliance with inspections
- Use of Personal and Protective Equipment
- Requirements to use qualified riggers.
Also, we would pose questions such as:
- Does your club use a professional or licensed rigger to climb towers?
- How often are your tower/s inspected for safety and engineering compliance?
- Does your club have a risk plan? How often do you conduct a risk review and develop a response or mitigation plan?
Would your club be covered if your committee was not undertaking a responsible approach to safety, OH&S and potentially dangerous activities?
So much of what we do as radio amateurs has a level of risk associated with it; especially when it comes to towers, antennas, and related activities. Perhaps what’s most important is ensuring your club is overseeing such activities in a responsible manner, and that anything involving a high risk is managed accordingly.
- Maybe your club should consider an Insurance review: do you understand your insurance policies, and do you have the cover you need?
- Risk Management: has your committee reviewed the risks your club, its members and the public are exposed to? Do you have a mitigation plan?
- Safety Officer: a dedicated member who has an understanding of the Work Health and Safety Bill, OH&S and can act as an advisor to committee
- Maybe your club could team up with other clubs to share costs in getting member/s qualified in Working at heights and Basic Riggers certifications?
From what we’ve learnt, many clubs were unaware of what the “WIA Affiliation Insurance” product provided for many years. It appears very few knew that their own members were excluded from the cover. Indeed, we’d even suggest the WIA was unclear, otherwise, surely, they would have alerted clubs?
Insurance and public liability has become a complex business. Australia is number two in the world for litigation, second only to the USA. So it’s a real risk, and one that every club should consider seriously.
If your club has a tower, undertakes field days, or sponsors any high-risk activities, your committee would be well advised to write to the Insurer seeking clarification in writing. Don’t wait until you need to make a claim.
Has the time come for clubs to consider amalgamating, to share resources, costs and benefits?
Some definitions from Birch Grove Legal:
An employee: There is a legal duty under common law to take reasonable care to avoid exposing employees to likely risks of injury.
A volunteer: If an organisation falls within the WHS laws, then it will owe duties to all workers, including volunteers.
Organisations that are completely run by volunteers (ie with no employees) do not owe duties to their volunteers under WHS laws. However, if an organisation has at least one employee, it will owe WHS duties to all workers.
“It wouldn’t happen to us…”
In any of these scenarios your organisation and/ or your board members could be considered legally responsible.
- A volunteer trips over in your office and breaks their wrist
- A volunteer driver has a car accident, damaging another car
- A professional volunteer gives advice that turns out to be wrong, causing the client significant harm
- Event participants damage the hall you have hired
- Someone has an allergic reaction to food that has been wrongly labelled
- Your computer system is hacked and confidential client files are exposed
- An officer commits a fraud right under the nose of the board
- Your partner organisation goes bankrupt leaving a trail of debts
Further Useful Information