With ‘hot work’ fires leading to millions of pounds worth of damage each year, Zurich UK is recommending a couple of measures to help stem the issue.
One proposal is the use of handheld thermal imaging devices, as standard, in all non-domestic construction, refurbishment, and maintenance projects involving hot work. The insurer is also urging contractors to adopt a voluntary licensing system that would see them complete a training course before carrying out or supervising hot work such as grinding, welding, and torching.
“Fires caused by hot work have a devastating impact on lives, businesses, and communities,” said Zurich UK risk engineering director Kumu Kumar. “The construction industry already has robust hot work controls in place but with fires continuing to break out, additional measures are urgently needed.
“Thermal cameras could further strengthen the industry’s existing safeguards and help to detect more hot spots before they ignite. The devices can also be used to take time-stamped photos to demonstrate fire watches have been carried out.”
Kumar’s camp believes the adoption of cameras as standard is a relatively cheap and simple measure that could have a far-reaching impact.
According to Home Office data obtained by Zurich UK under Freedom of Information, fire crews in England attended 1,587 construction fires between January 2015 and March 2019. Of these, 28% were caused by hot work or other heat sources.
In addition, the insurer’s own claims data shows that 15% of the total cost of all UK fires in commercial and industrial properties involves hot work. It was noted that the cost of damage has spiked to £250 million in the last three years.