Employers' liability and terrorism were key issues during David Ireland's term as Airmic chairman. But, as he says here, such issues emphasise the need for good risk management

The theme of the conference, "The pursuit of excellence", emerged from Airmic's revised mission statement launched at the AGM held during last year's conference.

I believe this conference will help us on our journey in pursuit of this goal. Already we have been able to bring added value to our members, with invaluable assistance from our friends at Aon, Marsh, and Willis. Their in-depth training sessions have been a first for our conference.

This conference for me is the beginning of the end as I hand over the reins of the association to my deputy, Nick Chown. But what a year it has been. We knew last year that times were hard, particularly in my own business sector, construction.

We brought this to the attention of members of the press who were present, and now look what is happening. The market is getting even smaller and there is no let-up in sight. This really re-emphasises the need for good risk management.

Over the past year Airmic has pursued every opportunity to be true to its mission. At Birmingham we had the launch of Professor Frank Furedi's report, Refusing to be Terrorised, jointly sponsored by Lloyds and Airmic. We have seen the issue of the joint Airmic, Alarm and IRM risk management standard.

The interest this is generating is very gratifying and everybody involved in its preparation is to be congratulated. This conference provides further opportunities to develop this interest and hopefully will be a spur to many to put the standard into practice.

Sandwich panels
We have one of our members, Derek Mason of Uniq, chairman of the Airmic food industry group, working with various foods industry trade associations.

Together they have been instrumental in the preparation of a fire risk minimisation guide, dealing proactively with problems associated with the use of sandwich panels in buildings.

We have the sterling work on terrorism undertaken by two of our members Tony Williams of Land Securities and John Windsor of Marks & Spencer. Together with the insurance industry and the government, they have helped to shape the cover available in the UK.

They continue to work on our behalf to reconcile the problems arising from the different definitions of terrorism used by the Market and Pool Re.

Our central area organised and ran our biennial convention. This was a huge success. We have also run and co-hosted a number of well-attended and successful seminars on a variety of subjects. Airmic's special interest and industry groups have been particularly busy providing many excellent networking opportunities.

Workers' compensation

We met officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to discuss the crisis in the employers' liability (EL) market and their review of the situation. We produced a response to them, emphasising the need to also focus on risk management issues.

Peter Berring, on behalf of the liability SIG, has produced a paper on the way forward, favouring a no-fault workers' compensation approach. However, as is the case within the market itself, it is not the view of the Airmic membership as a whole.

Personally, I believe the current system is irreparably damaged and in terminal decline. We do not need another patch-up repair, we need to be forward-thinking and embrace change.

Workers Comp is a success in the vast majority of states in the US and it is from there that we should take our lead. We are in a position where we can use hindsight to tailor a system that combines the very best of the successful schemes and omits the flaws.

We cannot keep pumping money into a tort-based system where the compensation paid to the injured party is often only a small part of the overall cost of a claim. Insurers are voting with their feet and the numbers willing to write stand only EL are very few.

Five major insurers account for 70% of the market, what happens if one or more of these calls it a day?

Some food for thought, and hopefully the next two days will produce more thought-provoking topics and some answers too.

David Ireland is the outgoing chairman of Airmic.