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Insurance crisis could hit local events

PERTH pubs and clubs and even events such as Rally Australia could be in jeopardy as a result of the worsening public liability insurance crisis.

Security companies are facing premium rises of up to 500 per cent, although 350 per cent appears to be the industry average. The biggest concern, however, is not the cost of the insurance but the exclusions attached to the policies.

Security Agents Institute of WA executive officer Ron Adams said most policies carried exclusions on pubs, clubs and entertainment work – key areas for the crowd control industry.

He said the insurance crisis could lead to the cancellation of a number of functions and big events.

“If the crowd controllers can’t get public liability insurance then people won’t be able to run functions,” Mr Adams said.

“This could threaten WA events such as Rally Australia, the Hopman Cup and the Johnny Walker Classic.

“The problem we have is an immediate one. People seeking new insurance cover may get it and then find they face all the exclusions.

“Nobody in government seems to have seen the penny drop yet about the loss of crowd control.

“Is the Government going to change the Liquor and Gaming Act to remove the need for crowd controllers or is it going to remove the need for the agencies to carry the appropriate liability insurance to be licensed?

“Hotels may be forced to cover the liability for the crowd controllers.”

The Liquor and Gaming Act requires hotels and clubs to have one licensed crowd controller per 100 people if the venue is open past 1am.

However, special events such as Rally Australia or even AFL matches also require licensed crowd controllers.

To be licensed, crowd controller agencies such as Nightwatch and Panther Security are required to have a public liability insurance certificate covering their workers for crowd control work.

Australian Hotels Association executive director Bradley Woods said he had not been made aware of any problems in the crowd control industry.

Mr Woods said the AHA’s recommended insurance package offer-ed public liability cover for crowd con-trollers if the particular venue was employing them.

Whoever employs the crowd controllers must hold the licence that they operate under – be it the venue or a crowd control agency.

Mr Woods said some of Perth’s larger venues used crowd controller agencies, while the smaller venues oft-en opted to hire their own.

“We’ve had a discussion with the Government over the issue,” he said.

“This could impact on major events such as the football and the cricket.”

Some of the larger security players, such as Chubb and Group 4 Securitas, have managed to avoid crowd control public liability exclusions.

Chubb marketing manager Michelle Cockrill said the company’s public liability policies were negotiated on a worldwide basis – and issued from a London-based insurer.

“The policies have no exclusion clauses bar the common one regarding terrorism,” he said.

Chubb is a major provider of crowd controllers for special events.

A spokeswoman for Eventscorp, the WA Government agency charged with attracting events to the State, said she had not heard of any problems regarding finding licensed crowd con-trollers.

While Eventscorp does not manage the events it attracts, it does provide assistance to the organisers if they request it.

Other players in the security industry also are concerned about the rising cost of public liability insurance.

Adopt Security proprietor Denis Gallagher said the public liability insurance costs were a threat to security companies offering dog patrol services.

His is one of three companies in Perth that offers dog patrols and Mr Gallagher admitted he was concerned about what his next insurance premiums could be.

“You have to pay $2,000 excess on every claim made because of the dogs,” he said.

“Not so long ago insurance companies were saying they wouldn’t insure companies operating with dogs.

“One of the problems you have with the security industry is the risk of injury to employees. Every month I’m hearing about guards being sent to hospital.

“Because my guys use dogs there is less risk of injury to them. I don’t disagree the dogs pose a potentially higher risk to the public but you have a much higher risk of a guard getting hurt without the dog.”

Secureforce director John Ryan blamed a lot of the insurance woes his industry was facing on the crowd control industry.

“There hasn’t been a public liability claim laid against a security officer or firm in Australia that I can find,” he said.

“The public liability insurance costs are hitting the crowd controllers, and that’s affecting the whole industry.

“Usually the industry doesn’t have a big insurance problem, but if you look at it, under the umbrella of security you’ve got crowd controllers, debt collectors, investigators and security officers. Plus you’ve got people like us who are doing ‘police’ type work.”

Mr Ryan said he had considered putting his insurance through a US-based police-training firm that he owns – until he discovered it would be 10 times more expensive than the charge he faces here.

“You can’t pass all of the price rises on to your clients. There have even been moves afoot to try and get a better premium price,” he said.

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