Financial Data
Updated 21 Jan 2019

Risks to guard against as a trade business owner in South Africa

Running your own small construction or engineering company presents unique challenges. But, with strategic thinking, you can mitigate them.

30 April 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

Anything can happen when you or your team is working onsite. A slight misstep could lead to a fall, a misplaced tool could cause injury. Imagine the financial implications of being caught off-guard and an employee or civilian is injured.

Fortunately, if you manage your risks appropriately, you can succeed in the trade sector. Challenges such as working in isolation – usually with limited access to back-up or support infrastructure – require you to manage your projects stringently. 

There solutions that can help you guard against a variety of risks in the business; let’s unpack a few:

1. Site safety and mitigating its challenges

Everyone needs to be on constant alert for hazardous conditions involving electricity, chemicals, heights and heat when on site. Key risks to remain cognisant of include working with power tools, being around cleaning chemicals and sealants, working from heights and using heat tools that could present a fire hazard.

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Avoid these risky incidents by:

  • Conducting your own risk assessment of the site, even if it’s been done before by a previous contractor.
  • Implementing safety measures based on the results of your risk assessment, to minimise potential incidents.
  • Ensuring the tools you’re using for the job at hand  are correct and in good working order.

Remember that you are in charge of your own safety and supervising its implementation, so if you don’t adhere to hazard precautions you could be putting yourself and others in harm’s way.

2. Personnel and property safety

Regardless of whether you’re working on a domestic or commercial project for a customer, it’s advised to keep non-work-related people away from the work site. This is the best way to reduce risks and protect any unsuspecting civilians from falling into building material access points or being injured by power tools.

You could reduce risks in this instance by:

  • Fencing off ‘site boundaries’ to reduce possible danger to the public.
  • Ensuring the work area is well demarcated, ventilated and lit
  • Providing job-specific protective equipment for workers and visiting clients.

Leading construction firms use brightly coloured signs on sites that are particular to each job’s requirement. You can do the same for your projects to ensure you comply with health and safety protocols.

3. Legal risks are essential to guard against

Trade businesses are exposed to unique legal implications, which you should consider proactively guarding against. The most important thing to remember is that ‘you are your business’ in the trade sector, which means making sure you and any staff you have working for you are properly trained.

Should something go wrong on site, and the customer requests an investigation, you don’t want to be known as a company that employs unqualified people.

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Imagine, worse still, if the customer takes legal action against you, and it’s proven that you were negligent? Rather avoid paying damages that could erode any chance of running a profitable trade company.

Of course, you can’t protect yourself from every  potential risk. But, it’s essential for trade business owners to have insurance cover in the event that something does goes wrong.

Some of the insurance types you could consider include:

  • Public Liability cover
  • Personal Accident cover
  • Employers’ Liability Cover.

These can help protect you in the event of property damage or customer injury, protect your income if you’re no longer able to work due to injury, or cover your employees should they be injured.


If a risk were to become a reality in your business, would you be prepared to manage it, or would you struggle to recover? Talk to trade sector experts at Standard Bank about guarding against risks in your building, plumbing, or engineering business today.

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