Sprayer © Tim Scrivener

Farmers Weekly’s Business expert Nigel Wellings gives advice on making sure you are covered for pollution leaks from your farm kit.

Q: We recently had a hose burst on our sprayer while driving down the road. Luckily we only had clean water in the sprayer. It worried me, however, just what the situation would have been if chemicals had been in the sprayer and if we were presented with a large bill for clean-up costs and damage to flora and fauna – would our insurance have covered this?

A: First, you must report any potential pollution incident to the Environment Agency (EA), It is a criminal offence not to do so.

See also: Business Clinic: Employer liability insurance advice

Upon being notified of an incident the EA will visit the potentially polluted site, advise on clean-up and reinstatement procedure, and call in the necessary specialist contractors to clean up any contamination and stop further damage being caused. All of the costs associated with this will then be passed on to you as the owner of the sprayer. Our experience of the size of farm-related pollution claims over the past two years ranges from £4,000 for a diesel spill to £80,000 for a fire and asbestos clean-up.

Nigel WellingsNigel Wellings
Founder director
Farmers and

Most farmers may automatically assume their farm liability insurance policy will pick up all of the costs involved. Unfortunately in many instances this is not the case, although insurance cover for environmental incidents on farm has been dramatically improved over the past few years by some insurers.

The implementation of the environmental liability directive in March 2009 placed onerous conditions on farmers and landowners and some insurers reacted quickly to ensure that full cover was provided. However other insurers offer varying degrees of environmental liability insurance cover, some quite limited, and in many cases they refuse to deal with potential claims involving chemicals – or more worryingly, chemicals being transported.

It is absolutely essential that your insurance adviser understands the exact environmental risks facing your farming business and has fully advised you as to what is the most appropriate policy.

Sadly, this complicated area of environmental law is often not well enough understood.

Along with chemical and liquid fertiliser discharges, the other most common environmental claim we see is for escape of diesel into a watercourse following theft of diesel. Again, the clean-up costs associated can be high, but it is essential that you inform the EA of any such incident rather than have it traced back to you.

Levels of insurance cover for this type of incident can vary greatly between different insurers so check yours and make sure your cover matches the level of risk you are willing to take.

The information provided in these articles does not constitute definitive professional advice and is provided for general information purposes only.

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