Derek Mason, risk manager of chilled convenience food group Uniq, has received two major awards for his work in helping the UK's food and food distribution industry tackle fire safety and risk issues

For his work with the AIRMIC Food and Distribution Industry Forum and the Food Industry Panels Group (FIPG), Derek was named Insurance Day risk manager of the year, and at the AIRMIC annual dinner in London in December 2003, he received the chairman's award.

Derek is one of a number of food industry specialists serving on the FIPG, set up by food industry trade associations in late 2001 in response to soaring property insurance premiums. The key issue for the group was the role of composite insulating panels, used widely throughout the industry, in fire losses.

The first meeting of the FIPG in November 2001 took two important decisions: to develop risk management guidance, especially to assist small and medium sized businesses without a dedicated risk manager, and, on Derek's suggestion, to ask AIRMIC to lobby insurers and the Government on behalf of the industry.

The latter decision led to the formation of the AIRMIC Food and Distribution Industry Forum, which met for the first time in May 2002 and included members from outside the FIPG also interested in the issues.

Since then the FIPG has published the Fire Risk Minimisation Guidance, which in October 2003 received the endorsement of Fire Protection Association (FPA) and the support of AIRMIC. Derek is now working with the FPA to produce a second edition, and four major insurers have expressed a willingness to develop the guidance further. Discussion is also under way with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and contact has been made with the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Scottish Executive to explore how it can be included in the current review of safety standards and building control regulations.

Insurers are becoming more discriminating, says Derek, who is hopeful that renewals this year will see insurers give real rate reductions for better-managed risks. The next stage he would like to see is an insurance facility directly built on the back of the Fire Risk Minimisation Guidance.