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Ready for Christmas? Open up our advent calendar of 24 safety tips to keep you safe this Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But with grottos of fire hazards and oodles of wide-eyed thieves scoping your home and contents à la Harry and Marv in Home Alone, Christmas is also the most dangerous time of the year. Not sure where to start your quick-fire security check, you say? Never fear, our Advent Calendar of Safety is here!
  1. Shop safely amidst the chaos. Take your time and try to avoid the busiest areas.
  2. Buy your presents from reputable sources. If it looks dubious, don’t bother.
  3. Heading into the attic? Look out for exposed nails, trailing wires and other hazards.
  4. If your lights are old, consider buying new ones.
  5. Fitting lights? Use safe ladders and have another person hold them steady for you.
  6. Check your outdoor lights. Only use outdoor lights outdoors, and indoor lights indoors.
  7. Don’t overload electrical circuits. There’s a limit for a reason.
  8. Don’t cover up your home alarm. Keep it visible and work around it.
  9. Don’t step on those Christmas baubles. We’ve seen that one before.
  10. Give your lights a breather every now and again.
  11. Buy a fire-retardant tree if you’ve opted for an artificial one.
  12. Place your tree in a safe place away from heat sources or uneven surfaces.
  13. Use flameless candles or make sure flames can’t fall or be reached by children.
  14. When you go to bed, turn the lights off… all the lights.
  15. Keep your doors and windows closed and locked to avoid would-be thieves.
  16. Inspect any electrical decorations every day or so to root out any defects.
  17. If snow comes, keep your drive and path clear for guests.
  18. Consider buying an extinguisher, just in case.
  19. Don’t entice thieves by leaving presents under the tree.
  20. When you’ve opened them, keep clutter to a minimum.
  21. Maintain your kitchen safety amidst all the commotion.
  22. That means: don’t leave the Christmas roast unattended.
  23. If you’re going away for Christmas, don’t publicise it on social media.
  24. As tempting as a Christmas tipple may be, don’t drink and drive.
For most of us, Christmas is probably the only time of the year in which the chaotic fun gets the better of us and it’s easy to get carried away. Accidents happen, sometimes it’s something we could have done, and sometimes it’s beyond our control. A sound insurance policy can protect you if disaster strikes. Give us a call on 01461 337751 to find out more.

Pig farmers halve the use of antibiotics in 2 years

The routine use of antibiotics in animals intended for slaughter appears to be waning in light of consistent evidence that this is contributing to increasing resistance in humans. In 2014, 27% of all feed for young pigs contained a prescribed antibiotic. By the end of 2016, this figure halved to 18%. What’s more, according to this data which was collected from the UK’s major feed compounders, the greatest decrease took place during 2016, showing that the movement to limit antibiotics in pig farming is gaining momentum. John FitzGerald is from Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) which led the research. He said: "This data shows there is a clear drive to use antibiotics more responsibly and to work alongside the human medical community in reducing, refining and replacing use of antibiotics globally, as well as building on the successful 10 percent reduction in UK farm animal use in 2015.” These figures were welcomed by The Pig Veterinary Society, who collaborate with pig farmers in the reduced use of antibiotics. "We cannot emphasise enough the importance of veterinary expertise and advice in assessing the disease risks and selecting suitable control options.” said the organisation’s president, Susanna Williamson. "These need to be tailor-made to suit each individual farm and the effects monitored to ensure that initiatives to reduce antibiotic treatment also promote good pig health and welfare.” Antibiotics are routinely prescribed in livestock farming as a preventative measure against bacteria-related illnesses. In pigs, this can include anthrax, which will often be covered under the “disease” section of a livestock policy, alongside other illnesses such as swine fever and foot and mouth. However, just like humans, animals can become resistant to antibiotics. Paul Toplis of the Agricultural Industries Confederation claims the use of zinc oxide in pig feed seems to be allowing for a reduction in antibiotics by protecting the animal’s gut from E. coli bacteria. "We are encouraged to see the rate of reduction in 2016, and this reflects the work between vets and farmers to make some courageous changes.” He said. He was, however, wary of the implications relating to the animals' interests in light of this shift, "Reducing reliance on antibiotics to treat and prevent disease spread could pose significant welfare challenges if not done with the right levels of care and skill." He added.

Welcome To Our New Website

At CSW Insurance Brokers Ltd we want to ensure that securing the right insurance is always as efficient and reassuring a process as possible. Because of this, we've been working on a new-look website that's designed to make it as easy as possible for you to find what you're looking for and for us to give you the advice and assistance you need. We hope you like it! Built by our partners at Broker Network, the new website is designed to be more user-friendly and crucially features a fully responsive design. This means that whether you choose to visit us from your desktop, mobile or tablet device you will have a smooth and straightforward browsing experience. We also intend to regularly update this Blog section with news, tips and useful information about CSW Insurance Brokers Ltd and the insurance world in general so be sure to check back here regularly for the latest and most up-to-date insurance information. If you have any questions about your insurance policy, or about the independent insurance services we can provide, you can get in touch with us by calling 01461 337 751 or emailing enquiries@cswinsurance.co.uk. We hope to hear from you soon.

How to make sure business setbacks are temporary

As much as you might hope it never happens, or try to prevent it, occasionally circumstances outside your control may force you to close your business. Shutting shop for a few days while you redecorate is one thing but if you’ve fallen victim to bad weather or bad fortune, it might be harder than you think to reopen your doors. Time – the hidden nail in the coffin for businesses in trouble It’s an often repeated claim that 80% of businesses that are affected by a major incident close within 18 months and while the truth behind that statistic can be tricky to verify, it’s easy to see how such a thing could be true. While incidents like minor break-ins or vandalism might be expensive but ultimately surmountable headaches, if your business were to suffer severe flooding, or fall victim to arson, things could be very different. The most obvious problem is the physical damage you would suffer. Your premises would have to be repaired and redecorated, potentially including things like fitting new carpets and windows, and stock or equipment might have to be reordered. All this can come at great expense but thankfully is typically covered by a commercial building and contents policy so if you have that in place, these costs will likely not prove too difficult for you to overcome. What you may not have considered when insuring your business is the thing that is actually responsible for many of these closures – business interruption. The ensuing rebuild or refurbishment of your business can be time-consuming, and the real costs are often measured not in expense but in loss of income. If your property is flooded it could be weeks or even months until it is habitable again and even if the cost of your repairs is covered by your insurance, every day that you are not open is a day that you are essentially unemployed and further earnings lost for your business. On top of this, delayed closures can affect business relationships with suppliers and partners, drive customers elsewhere and more, all of which can impact upon your ability to reopen. If The Unexpected Can Happen, It Will Of course, we always hope that we're not placed in such a position, but the point of insurance is that it protects again the unexpected. From December 2013 to February 2014, the UK suffered the most severe flooding on record, affecting thousands of homeowners and businesses. During this period, insurers received 3,100 flood claims from businesses amounting to payouts of an estimated £249 million. That’s a huge figure and it doesn’t even account for the 44,700 storm damage claims made by businesses, not to mention any other claims that may have been made as result of this weather. These widespread floods affected homes and businesses not typically at risk from flooding. If those 3,100 businesses had not been insured, how many would have been able to recover? Likewise, it is estimated that as many as 10% of farms and rural businesses affected by the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak were forced to close their doors within 18 months. That’s a lot of businesses that closed due to something almost entirely outside of their control. Business Interruption Insurance – A Vital Lifeline Incidents like this are why business interruption cover is crucial when you insure your business. Business interruption covers the loss of earnings you would otherwise suffer while you repair, restock and rebuild following an incident and it’s this cover that proves absolutely vital in keeping many businesses afloat during difficult times. Whatever your industry, discuss the right business interruption policy for you with a CSW advisor. Get in touch on 01461 337 751 or enquiries@cswinsurance.co.uk.

How safe is your tractor?

Agricultural incidents may be few and far between, particularly when compared to motorbike and car incidents, but when they do occur they often have serious – and sometimes fatal – consequences. Back in 2009, Kim Webb, a 26-year-old farm worker from Somerset, was killed when the tractor she was driving overturned in a field. After an inquiry was carried out it was discovered that the tractor had no seatbelt or rollover protection. Ms Webb’s employer was fined £80,000; though no amount of money could compensate the loss of a life. In recent years, tractors have advanced both in terms of capability and speed. Larger tyres allow for better control on demanding terrain and the installation of roll bars can help to prevent serious injuries and death. If you operate a tractor, under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1992 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), your vehicle must be able to move around in a safe manner, be adequately maintained, and anyone who operates the vehicle must receive sufficient training. Accidents don’t just happen, they are caused. Bearing the following in mind will help to minimise risk and prevent injury to you and your employees:
  • Safety checks to your tractor should be carried out each morning before use. Create a checklist, using the manual as a guide, ensuring you include the following: the braking system (including discs and pads), oil and fluid levels, coolant levels, fan belt and tyre pressures.
  • It’s vital for employees to receive adequate training on how to safely operate the tractor. Are they medically fit to operate it?
  • If they aren’t fitted as standard, make sure you have a seat belt and a roll-over protection structure (ROPS) installed within the driver’s cab. The condition of the ROPS should be checked on a regular basis; incorrect mounting of bolts and/or corrosion can cause the structure to fail in the event of an overturn.
  • If a trailer is used, you must check its braking system and ensure that loads do not exceed the maximum limit.
  • Legally, passengers are only allowed to ride in the driver’s cab when they have a designated seat.
  • Appropriate clothing must be worn at all times when driving the tractor. Clothes should be well-fitted to prevent them from getting caught on moving parts; sturdy work boots with good grip should be worn to operate the pedals; long hair should be tied up and any jewellery should be removed.
  • It’s against the law to give rides to children under the age of 13, regardless of whether there is a passenger seat.
  • When driving the tractor, ensure there are no loose objects in the cab as these could prove hazardous in the event of an overturn.
  • Carbon monoxide kills – never start the tractor’s engine in a shed or garage unless all doors are open and the area is well ventilated.
  • If a hitch system is used, ensure it’s the correct one for your tractor and carry out regular checks on the equipment, including skids, jacks and other supports.
  • The ‘safety stop’ should be carried out each time the tractor is brought to a halt. This involves applying the handbrake, putting controls in neutral, switching the engine off and removing the key.
  • Be particularly cautious when carrying out work on slopes. Use wide wheels if possible, never turn down a slope and always descend down the slope with the gentlest gradient.
  • In the event of an overturn, the driver should remain in their seat and must not attempt to jump out of the cab.
Most accidents are caused by user negligence. Carrying out regular checks on your tractor and ensuring that it’s operated in an appropriate manner will help to prevent accidents and keep you and your employees safe. Ensure your rural business is adequately protected from daily risks with dedicated farm insurance solutions from CSW. Contact us on 01461 337 751 or email enquiries@cswinsurance.co.uk to find out more about how we could give your business peace of mind.

Great Expectations – what students want from their accommodation

With the maximum cost for tuition fees tipping £9000, it's no surprise that students not only want the best from the education they're paying for but the living experience while they're studying. Yet research by the National Union of Students (NUS) showed that three-quarters of students are living in poor accommodation.\r\n\r\nSpurred by these figures, Glide Utilities worked with Accommodation For Students (AFS) to create a report to find out what students really want from their accommodation:
  • A speedy connection – 83%
  • Inclusive bills – 74%
  • Double beds – 61%
  • Good storage – 72%
  • Large, functional communal areas – 59%
  • Close to campus – 55%
  • Good transport links – 31%
  • Good management – 66% of those surveyed said they had experienced problems with the way their property had been managed
James Villarreal, CEO at Glide Utilities, spoke of the findings and what they hoped can be learned from the report: “The secret to gaining student appeal in 2015 is definitely ‘more is more’. While the majority of students are satisfied with their accommodation, we can’t ignore the fact that this figure is gradually falling. This isn’t because conditions are slipping, necessarily, but that student expectations are rising.” “Our findings highlight exactly what students seek, when it comes to private rented accommodation, and will help landlords and agents make the right practical, changes, without breaking the bank.” With the potential of a steady income, those investing in student properties will find that by ticking all the right boxes in terms of what prospective students want, they’ll be more likely to gain interest not just from potential tenants themselves, but from the University. Being comfortable in living accommodation is important, and could make all the difference to both learning experience and outcome. Students will use the National Student Survey and International Student Barometer scores to help them pick the right University for them, both of which account for the quality of living accommodation. In a bid to provide enviable living quarters for their students, one of the steps Universities are taking is to outsource private rental providers. Taking note of what students want will give landlords of student accommodation a good insight when looking into properties to add to their portfolio, as well as the best opportunity for securing the right tenants for their current properties, thereby protecting their investment. Find out how CSW could help protect your property with dedicated landlords’ and property owners’ insurance as well as landlord legal expenses insurance. Get in touch on 01461 337 751 or enquiries@cswinsurance.co.uk.

EU under pressure to intervene in farming crisis

The European Union (EU) is being put under increased pressure to take action and help prevent a farming crisis across the union. According to Farmers Weekly, a meeting attended by a number of agricultural ministers concluded that the situation in the agricultural sector has become critical, yet market support measures from the EU have so far been inadequate. Member states, led by France, have called for the commission to carry out a review of the milk intervention price, identify new export markets and make additional funds available to compensate for Russia's ban on EU food. Unions and farming ministers have also said that the EU should reopen aid for private storage of pig meat in hopes it will boost prices by removing volumes from the market. In February, the UK government came under fire from the National Pig Association after it decided to shut down storage. GB Standard Pig Price (SPP) was 112.9p/kg in the week ending 13 February, whereas a year before the price stood at 135.1p/kg. The majority of sectors within the farming industry – in particular dairy and pigs – are up against an oversupplied market as a result of increased production, a Chinese import crash and Russia’s ban, which made up around 25% of EU exports of pig meat. Data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that English farm business revenue dropped 47% for grazing livestock, 46% for pig producers and 45% for dairy farmers in 2015-2016. Agricultural minister for the EU, Phil Hogan, recognised the scale of the crisis but explained that ministers would have to take action “within legislative confines.” Yet, he said there is possible scope to devise a European-wide export support mechanism. With regards to Russia’s ban, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) report leaked to news source Agra Facts Europe purportedly shows that the WTO found Russia in breach of international trade regulations. If this is the case, the country may be forced to reopen its markets. To find out how the crisis could affect your business or discuss any other aspect of your farming business's insurance arrangements, talk to a member of the CSW team on 01461 337 751 or enquiries@cswinsurance.co.uk.