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Personal liability threatens emergency dam inspectors

ENGINEERS RESPONSIBLE for emergency dam inspections could be held personally liable for millions of pounds in damages claims if a structure they examine fails, a leading construction lawyer warned this week.

Engineers called out for emergency inspection can often have little contractual protection against claims from dam owners or members of the public, said Masons partner Mark Roe.

He said engineers on the ICE administrated panel of engineers, set up to provide emergency advice, often lack adequate insurance.

Retired reservoir engineers on the panel may have no insurance at all, warned Roe.

There are currently over 500 reservoir engineers on the panel.

Roe warned that insurance cover with a £1M limit could be inadequate where dams burst and cause widespread flooding.

Panel engineers this week told NCE they had carried out emergency inspections without written contracts.

Panel engineers are often only paid £2,000 for an inspection, added Roe. 'Given their extremely important function it's quite a small amount of money for a very important job.'

Employees of large consultants have some protection from employer's personal liability insurance.

But even this may not be enough, warned Roe. As a result employers and engineers should ensure that dam owners sign a limited liability contract before hiring a panel engineer.

British Dam Society chairman Andy Hughes said his company KBR refused to allow him to work for reservoir owners unless they agree to a limited liability.

Retired engineers are even more at risk, warned Roe.

'The retired or semi-retired will only be carrying modest insurance - if any, ' he said.

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