As thoughts turn towards the reopening of museums and visitor attractions, we would recommend insurance be part of the conversation and in this article we highlight some practical steps which will assist in the decision making process.
Many insurers have not applied any additional terms to their policies, or restricted the cover provided whilst museums and attractions have been closed as a result of the Government lockdown. This stance will change imminently, and as lockdown gets eased, we expect normal terms and conditions of the policy to apply again, although we would also expect insurers to provide notice of when this will happen. The key consideration is to ensure reasonable precautions have been undertaken to minimise risk, therefore there is an expectation museums and attractions will now be visited by staff and such visits are logged, along with checking of the services, plant and machinery, building fabric and general maintenance. If you think your premises could be unoccupied for a longer period of time, speak with your insurance provider so you are aware of any duties on you and cover implications.
In terms of reopening, we would expect liability insurance to respond should there be an allegation of someone contracting coronavirus on the premises, whether it be staff, volunteers or visitors, although do check your own policy cover. Without legal precedent, coupled with the nature of an invisible disease, it is difficult to see how a museum or attraction could be held legally liable for any illness as a result of the disease at the premises. However, the trustees do have a duty of care to all when reopening and there are measures to be carried out to assist with defending any potential claims:
- Firstly, there needs to be a recorded document of the decision making rationale to reopen by the trustees, and you must ensure you are not contravening any government guidance
- Secondly, you should consider risk assessments and including how the museum operates and how this impacts your staff and volunteers. You should also consider how the safety and well being of visitors can be maintained whilst not impacting too greatly upon the visitor experience
- These risk assessments could be broken down into premises, people, social distancing and hygiene, as examples. We would recommend checklists be put together to cover off these themes, which would form part of updated risk assessments
- You will probably also need to provide staff and volunteers with updated training. Ensure this happens, and record the time, date, and attendees, when updates are provided. Documentation is paramount
If you need further assistance, contact your insurance provider, as they should be able to provide guidance notes and perhaps templates. The HSE website is also a good source of information.