Small Woodland Owners' Group


Paperwork, grants, legal issues

Postby greyman » Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:31 pm

As tracy says we were looking elsewhere for Public Liability when we found out from the Brokers that the group policy seems to only cover third parties when things fall on them or they trip over when they are trespassing etc. This is not an exhaustive list of the cover and I do not want people to cancell thier insurance on the information we believe we have been given. I would like to hear from RAP and Willis exactly what is and isn\'t covered - we have been led to believe woodland managment activities such as coppicing and tree felling with tools is not covered under the policy. We even contacted the underwriters at Royal Sun Alliance - but were referred to Willis. We have also been in contact with the BTCV who said in a mail to us


Thank you for your enquiry with BTCV. Unfortunately we are unable to provide cover for private land owners as we are a conservation charity and thus restricted by the level of cover we offer. Alternatively please contact Zurich who are the underwriters of our scheme on 0845 602 3896.



I have spoken to her and tried to make headway with Zurich, NFU Insurance, AON and others. There is also a \'grey area\' around cover for visitors who may come and help you in your woods. The HSE leaflet on Employers Liability is not too clear on if you do or don\'t need it to cover your liability to helpers or volunteers. I am forming the opinion that we may be flogging dead horses trying to get any more cover than is available though RAP without paying what one broker quoted me - £1024 a year!

Perhaps others might like to ask RAP and Willis the same questions as us and see what they get told - best to do this in writing as you have a record then.

Good Luck to you all

Be Safe

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Postby tracy » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:47 pm

Thanks Greyman! This is such an important issue for us all to understand and if we all begin to make a noise they are going to have to answer some questions.

Friends \'helping\' in the wood- my understanding was that as soon as they pick up a tool, they officially become employees and no longer insured under 3rd party.


clear as mud!

The other thing we were told was that we need to write risk assessments for our work - insurance is not valid for other injuries if we do not have a risk assessment and shown that we have taken precautions. I have a standardised one I borrowed from somewhere.... if you would like a copy, email me for it.

([email protected])

we printed and laminated it and keep it in our first aid box.

It was also suggested to us that we keep a notebook and record hazards and what we have done about them.

This could all be nonsense and not actually any use when it comes to a claim. We could do with a lawyer on here I think!


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Postby greyman » Fri Jul 11, 2008 7:26 pm

Following my post of last night I have decided to post the reply we had in an email from Willis. The words are copied straight from the email and not transcribed:

\"The cover you  have under this policy is for your Public Liability as the owner of the  growing timber on your land. In other words if a 3rd party suffers a loss, on  your land, due to your negligence as the owner of the growing timber then cover  would attach.

Yours friends,  family or volunteers are not covered for Public Liability.

There is  also no cover for your Public Liability should you undertake maintenance  work.

The policy with RAP is a simple bog standard PL policy and the premium reflects this. Unfortunately there are no add ons to the cover available.\"

I think this tells us everything we need to know about the level of cover.

As for risk assessments I think you need to be very careful what you write and how you write it - I do have a little knowledge in this area- If you do not employ more than 4 people (we don\'t employ anyone) you do not have to have written Risk Assessments - you just have to show that you have assessed the hazards (what can harm) and quantified the risks (how likely is it to happen. Obviously it is in ones interest to have some proof of the fact you have considered the hazards and risks for the tasks and activities you carry out in your woods. You also need to \'consider special cases\'- do the people carrying out the tasks have the required training and knowledge and capabilities;consider ages - will there be young persons involved; will special tools and machines used. As you can see there is care needed in what you consider. I do not set myself up as a scource or authority in all things H&S just suggest that people look at what they do, who they let help them and any contingency plans they have for incidents and emergencies.

Be Safe

The Employers\' Liability (Compulsary Insurance)Act ( covers this with guidance on what is required. Page 4 gives examples of who could be considered Employees and then goes on to give examples of those who might not be considered Employees. The caveatt on this is that if in doubt you should seek legal advice - the general get out for grey areas.

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Postby mikepepler » Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:16 pm

I\'m wondering if the RAP cover is really worth paying for? Of course, it would be in the event of a claim, but if your wood doesn\'t border a road is that ever likely? Ours borders a footpath though.

This winter we\'ll be working on our own land, but next to the footpath, so will be taking out insurance to cover us for that. As I\'m chainsaw qualified and Tracy will be soon, this shouldn\'t be too expensive - we\'ve been told to expect a couple of hundred per year.

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Postby tracy » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:37 am

We need your help everyone, please could you take a look at what you recieved from RAP and tell me how much information you got from them - one page from RAP or a longer policy statement from Willis?


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Postby Dennis » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:34 pm

I still do my car insurance through a real office where you walk in and talk to real people so I called in the other day to ask about woodland PL insurance. For once the staff were completely blank and at a loss. They had no products to offer and no suggestions as to where else to look. No one had ever asked for something so esoteric.

And that's the problem - we're a small corner of a specialist market. A web search turned up the alarming fact (from an industry conference with reps from government and forestry bodies) that it's quite common for woodlands to have no cover whatever, or for a management company to have a block policy for all its absentee owners. I know from speaking to Mike Pepler that he may have found an on-line insurer. If it's useful then we want Tracy to prompt him to tell us about it.

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Postby Underwoodsman » Thu Sep 04, 2008 10:37 am

If you have a group of friends or relatives who regularly help you with the maintenance of your wood, you could consider doing as we have done; that is setting up a volunteer group under BTCV. You can then get cover under the BTCV insurance. We do not have cover for use of power tools or chainsaws although this can be aranged (the only people alowed to use power tools are the owners and we have company insurance).

In order to reduce costs it may be possible for a group of woodland owners to get together to set up a joint volunteer group; this could also act as a pool of labour and may be an excellent way of getting to know each other.

John W

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Postby Phil Tidey » Thu Sep 04, 2008 11:50 am

Just to clarify - although the RAP scheme started as a group scheme for SWA members we have had no involvement with it since 2001 when we registered as a charity (it wasn't an allowable activity).

I have had quite a lot of involvement with the BTCV scheme over the years. The big problem for woodland owners is it is designed for community groups who are members of the BTCV community network and I don't think individual woodland owners would qualify. The costs are based on the size of the site and the number and type of work days (chainsaw use adds a lot to the cost)and it could easily come to more than £300 a year. It might be that if all the owners on a site got together and set up a 'community group' and insured and worked the whole woodland cooperatively they might qualify, but this still wouldn't be within the 'spirit' of the scheme.

Phil Tidey
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Postby Chris » Sat Sep 06, 2008 9:53 am

I think the object of the RAP scheme was to give insurance for anyone injured while visiting/trespassing in your wood, or if a branch from your wood fell on them (apparently this is a matter of dispute from the above cases). I find this insurance helpful as we have public footpaths and a bridlepath in our wood, and parts of it have public access.

Because we have a large wood, and local people want to get involved with it, we have a Volunteer Group who do conservation and amenity work for which we have the BTCV insurance.

If you want to insure any friends and family who come to help in your wood and insure against the consequences of thier actions, neither really seems to cover it. Perhaps if all the owners in a group of woodlands joined together to get a more expensive third party insurance which covered what they wanted, it might not be too expensive for each owner.

Chris W

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Postby greyman » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:36 pm

Just an update on what we have managed to get back from Willis - nothing. That seems to be how helpfull and interested the industry is. Maybe we could ask to see if there is any way we can get a broker - there are quite a few who deal with the arboriculture industry - to come to one of the SWOG meetings and see if we can get some concrete information - at the moment all we seem to be doing is talking back and forth with little bits of information garnered from here there and everywhere. It would also help if the site indicated that the RAP insurance is as limited as it is, it seems to have been updated from what was on there recently but it does still say

"Many people don’t insure their woodlands but if you feel more comfortable insuring against third party risks it will cost under £100 per year through Rural Arbor Products. They are run by Roger Pittaway."

If I remember correctly it cost us just over the £100 and the above doesn't tell you the policy won't cover you for works you carry out in your wood.

I know I'm going on about this but I think people should be told upfront what is not included as it could be a nasty surprise if it ever goes wrong - you can't say "I didn't realise2 when you've bonked someone or something when felling a tree!

On a brighter note we had some work done on one of our Oaks last month and we had a contractor come and do the work - it was over a public footpath and I'm too decrepit to climb trees- the guy we used was asked to provide risk assessments, copy of insurance to cover work and was efficient and tidy. We can supply details if anyone in our locale is interested.

Hope to see some of you over at Flimwell in November or at the Bently Wood Show next week.

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