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Training and upskilling key to managing crane insurance costs

UAA's Stan Alexandropolous gives a speech to the CICA conference about crane insurance.

Stan Alexandropoulos UAA Group Chief Executive Officer discusses the company’s presence at the recent National CICA Conference and Exhibition in Perth, the themes of his crane insurance presentation and the response he received for the delegation.

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“From UAA’s perspective, we thought it was a successful conference. It was well attended during the many conversations I had, I think everybody realises that there are certain challenges moving forward, particularly around the training and upskilling of the crane industry’s workforce. 

“Everyone’s looking for solutions, which is fantastic, and everyone is pushing in the same direction. Visitors to the stand had the same opinion that, yes, we really need to start to look for solutions to these challenges before they become major problems. They understood that we need to make the changes and find the solutions or things will start to get mandated by government authorities and that’s not where we want to be,” said Stan.

During his presentation, Stan reminded everybody about the expertise within the UAA organisation, the longevity of its association with the crane industry and where the business is headed into the future.

“We’ve been insuring cranes for 50 plus years so we have a depth of knowledge and experience that is second to none. We presented details about where the business is today, and we focused on where we are taking it in the future. This included the improvement of our service deliverables to clients which also includes our brokers and our mutual crane clients. 

“We are investing heavily in our staff resourcing, making sure we have the right number and calibre of staff in the right areas of the business. In addition to that we are overlaying improved systems and processes that will give us even greater efficiencies to elevate our service to a level over and above everybody else. ‘Industry Best’ is where we are aiming,” said Stan.

Stan also highlighted the changes to UAA’s leadership team following the recent merger with the Mecon business and the retirement of key staff.

“The conference also provided a great opportunity for me to introduce myself as part of the leadership change and provide a snapshot of the current insurance landscape, particularly in the cranes and lifting sector. Most of all, our presence was to reassure people that there is a strong commitment from UAA to continue to support the crane industry as we have for the last 50 years. We want to see another 50 years at least and we are buoyant that we can do this. The key is to work together with the industry to ensure it remains sustainable for all stakeholders. We need to acknowledge and address these challenges when they present themselves and find solutions to them,” he said.

A troubling element of the presentation related to roll over incidents, particularly the number involving articulated pick and carry cranes.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in rollover claims involving articulated pick and carry cranes, in particular. I understand that crane companies tend to put their younger, less experienced crane operators in the least valued assets in the fleet. These tend to be articulated pick and carry cranes. We understand why it’s happening, and our concern is the ability to train these less practiced workers to be safe operators in this type of crane.

“From our perspective, these incidents are not just about paying claims from an equipment perspective, we also pay out much larger claims from a liability and a personal injury perspective.

“Now, by no means are we saying that crane companies are not doing the right thing. I suppose we’re looking at the procedures that enable a worker to operate an articulated pick and carry crane as they currently sit, and we are asking are they adequate? 

“We are also asking if the training is adequate and is it enough to get inexperienced operators into a pick and carry crane or any other crane for that matter? Our claims data leads us to believe there are gaps – particularly with pick and carry style cranes, and particularly when they’re driving on the road and that’s where most accidents occur.

“As an industry, we need to be on the front foot of this issue and address it with considered action. Otherwise, and as I’ve said, I think government bodies will mandate what happens and in a worst-case scenario, they will say, “You can’t drive these cranes on the road,” and we will end up having to put them on a low-loader moving from site to site, which is obviously not workable,” said Stan.

Stan comments on training initiatives such as CICA’s On-Road Articulated Steering Mobile Crane Training Course. 

“Our view is that anything that will improve training and the operators’ ability to operate these cranes safely, we’re all for it and we will support initiatives in any way we can. 

“We want to improve safety because that’s good for both our business and our client’s business. Safe operation of cranes means less claims, which mean lower premiums for crane businesses, and it makes insuring this industry more sustainable. More importantly, people go home safely.

“It also allows us to maintain our Securities interest, which is QBE in this instance, which encourages UAA’s continued support of the crane industry. We’ll support training initiatives in any way we can and we’re looking at possible incentives from an insurance perspective to encourage crane businesses to utilise training opportunities,” said Stan.

Stan goes on to explain how a recent increase in incidents is impacting the level of premiums the industry is paying.

“We’ve been insuring cranes for 50 years and we know that trends don’t change very much. As the industry gets busier servicing the current infrastructure boom as well as other sectors such as renewable energy and resources, everybody’s got cranes out and working and that’s why we are seeing the increase in incidents. Skilled staff shortages are further exacerbating the issue.

“We’ve seen a 21 per cent increase in incident numbers year-on-year and more importantly, we’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in average claims costs year-on-year. If we are lucky, the average premium rate change has only increased 5 per cent  year-on-year. 

“So, you can see the gap that’s forming, and eventually, that’s going to come home to roost. If you take the increase in incidents and overlay this with the increase in claims costs, there is the potential to damage the insurance side of things. 

“Over the past four to five years, we’ve seen a number of insurers leave the crane industry because they couldn’t make money. What makes UAA different is our longevity within the industry and our experience in the way we manage our claims. 

“We keep costs considerably lower purely because we have a huge amount of intellectual property in how we manage claims,” said Stan.

“We have the full support of QBE, but we want to make sure that insuring this industry remains profitable, so we are able to maintain this support. From UAA’s perspective, we won’t be leaving the crane industry, it’s a very big part of our heritage and really important to us. We’ll continue to support the industry but for this to happen we’re going to need everybody’s help to ensure that safe operating standards are improved by adequately training people and reducing the number of claims as a result,” he said. 


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