Hot works risks and how to stay safe

18th March, 2019

Statistics reveal that hot works is one of the biggest fire risks property owners can face. According to Zurich’s claims data, 15% of all fires occurring in commercial and industrial properties are caused by hot works.

Hot works describes any process that involves the use of open flames or local application of heat and friction, and is prevalent throughout the metal manufacturing sector, especially fabrication and the motor trade. 

Whether used in welding, soldering, grinding or torch cutting, all hot works processes have the potential to create serious fire risk. This can include fire damage, explosions, inhalation of fumes and burns, putting people and property at risk, along with the subsequent business interruption and reputational damage.

Poor practices and processes, such as a failure to understand the risks, select the right contractor, remove combustible materials, maintain site security and establish an emergency procedure, can exacerbate the likelihood of a hot works fire occurring. 

To reduce the risk, a safer alternative should always be considered. For example, hand filing is an alternative to grinding, and cutting tasks can be completed by hand or electric saws or pipe cutters. For roofing work, cold adhesive-applied systems are available for whole roof replacement and patch repairs. 

It’s also important to vet contractors carefully. Stewart Powell, from Zurich’s Major Loss Team, Property, explains: “Employers should be aware that if third-party property is damaged as a result of a hot works incident, they could potentially find themselves vicariously liable for any losses, if they had made insufficient enquiries to satisfy themselves that the contractor was competent to carry out the works. 

Many projects involving hot works stipulate that the employer and contractor take out joint insurance. If so, it’s important to get legal advice as, in the event of negligence, if it’s not possible to recover costs from the contractor’s insurance, the employer may have to settle the claim.

Many public liability policies include a Hot Works Warranty, stipulating minimum requirements, such as the provision of fire extinguishers and fire detection equipment. It’s important to know what the conditions are, to ensure the warranty isn’t breached.

Most property insurance policies require a Hot Work Permit, monitored on-site by a nominated individual, providing details of the contractors, nature of the work, hazards, fire watch, site inspection, equipment testing and emergency procedures. Zurich’s Major Loss Team is currently handling three claims relating to hot works fires at schools, with losses of between £5.75m and £18.5m. All three involve a failure to adhere to a Hot Work Permit.

Powell comments: “If an organisation has somebody on site, the risks are reduced considerably. The value of the works bears no relation to the potential damage if a fire breaks out. You could have £60,000 worth of works, but if a fire takes hold, you could be left with several million pounds’ worth of damage.”

If your manufacturing business is undergoing a programme of hot works, it’s essential to take note of these basic requirements. To ensure you are adequately covered by appropriate insurance, please contact Routen Chaplin. We have the experience and expertise to make sure you have the right insurance in place. 

Source: Zurich: An in-depth guide to hot works safety.

Other news