This month, Adair Lewis analyses the latest data relating to large-loss fires in the UK engineering sector
NEW INNOVATIONS in technology have brought immense changes to the engineering sector over the past couple of decades. Whereas engineering
The FPA’s analysis shows that engineering fires now account for 1.9% of all large-loss fires, withused to be thought of as involving rather greasy metal fabrications, the subject is now synonymous with high-technology, small-scale and ultra-clean environments. This has had an impact on the number and types of fires occurring, and increases in both property and business continuity losses.
a mean cost of £951,565 per fire. On the positive side, statistics show that the incidence of deliberate fire setting in engineering premises (together with industrial processing in general) is significantly below that for many other business sectors, with 16.7% of all engineering fires being deliberately started – although this ‘good’ record still results in one in six of all fires in this industry being caused by arson. Of the remainder, 72.2% of the fires are accidental and 11.1% remain unknown.
In view of the high percentage of accidental fires, it
is perhaps surprising that over a third (35.4%) of fires in the engineering industry occur on the night shift, between midnight and 6am. In nine cases of the 54 recorded in this classification, firefighters encountered significant difficulties during the firefighting operations.
In total, 44.4% of these were the result of poor access,
22.2% involved the presence of acetylene cylinders and in 11.1% there were inadequate water supplies.
In common with virtually all businesses, a fire risk assessment for engineering premises should be undertaken in compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Assessments will in
many cases also be required in accordance with the
Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres
Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).
In addition to the potential ignition sources present in most businesses, there are other hazards associated with the engineering industry, including:
- sparks produced from hot work processes
- cylinders of acetylene stored on the premises
- heating processes using ovens and furnaces
- heating by friction from hand tools and poorly maintained machinery
- static electrical charges accumulating as a result of poor bonding and earthing of conductors
- explosions occurring as a result of the release of flammable liquids and gases in poorly ventilated areas
- the formation of explosible amounts of dust in the atmosphere
- electrical fire hazards from poorly maintained electrical equipment and installations
- deliberate fire raising
- breaches of the fire compartmentation of the building
- combustible materials, including waste and idle pallets, stored outside
- poor access and water supplies for firefighters
Addressing the problems
You must ensure that measures identified in the fire risk and DSEAR assessments are implemented effectively by competent persons. At the time of the risk assessments, give careful consideration to the likelihood of deliberate
Sector Main Category: Industrial Processing
Sub Category: Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering
Industrial Processing fires account for 31.3% of all large-loss fires.
Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering fires account for 1.9% of all large-loss fires and 11.3% of all Industrial Processing fires.
|Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering||72.2%||16.7%||11.1%|
|Time of fire||Midnight – 6am||6am – Midday||Midday – 6pm||6pm – Midnight|
|Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering||35.4%||22.9%||22.9%||18.8%|
|Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering||44.4%||22.2%||11.1%||22.2%|
42 Industrial Processing fires of 479 had impedences, 8 of these had more than one impedence.
9 Industrial Manufacturing – Engineering fires of 54 had impedences, 1 of these had more than one impedence.
fire setting and the implementation of suitable measures to maintain the security of the premises, especially during hours of darkness.
When undertaking the DSEAR assessment on the site, employ the VICES acronym (ventilation, ignition, containment, exchange and separation). You should identify appropriate hazard zones in the DSEAR assessment, and train staff in the implications of these in the context of the materials being handled and the operations being carried out.
It’s also important to eliminate hot work wherever possible. When hot work cannot be avoided, eliminate the use of acetylene by using other forms of welding and cutting. Also, control the work by use of a hot work permit system.
Minimise fire spread by effective compartmentation between engineering process areas and those used for other purposes. Following any work that requires breaching the fire compartmentation, ensure that suitable fire stopping is undertaken in accordance with the FPA Design Guide (2007) to maintain the designed fire rating of the structural elements concerned.
Ensure also that electrical installations are designed, installed and periodically tested by a competent electrician in accordance with the current edition
of BS 7671 (the IET Wiring Regulations). Inspections should be carried out on a risk assessed basis as recommended in the Periodic Inspection Report. You should arrange for portable electrical equipment to be inspected and tested at least in accordance with HS(G) 107 and/or the IET Code of Practice for in-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment.
Protect the building by an automatic fire detection and alarm system designed to take into account the need for property protection. The system should be certificated by an independent UKAS accredited third
party certification body. The installation should be to a
recognised category of installation in accordance with BS 5839-1, as determined by a risk assessment and in consultation with the insurer.
When designing new premises, you should give serious consideration to the installation of an automatic fire suppression system, such as water sprinklers. Sprinkler systems should be designed, installed, commissioned and maintained in accordance with
the LPC Sprinkler Rules incorporating BS EN 12845 by a company certificated by an independent UKAS accredited third party certification body.
Provide a suitable number of appropriate portable fire extinguishers, which should be immediately accessible in the case of fire. They should be installed in accordance with BS 5306-8, and inspected and maintained in compliance with BS 5306-3. Designated staff should be trained in their use.
In large buildings, give consideration to the installation of smoke venting systems to prevent smoke logging,
for both life safety and property protection purposes. Specialist advice should be sought where a sprinkler system is installed.
Liaise with the fire and rescue service to ensure that water supplies are adequate for the sprinkler installation and for firefighting purposes. At this time, also ensure that there is adequate access and turning circles for firefighting vehicles. Ensure that any hydrants on site are prominently signed, regularly maintained and kept clear of obstructions.
Display appropriate hazardous material warning signs prominently at the entrance to the site and on relevant buildings.
Have an effective emergency plan in place to ensure the resilience of the business. One way of approaching this is to complete the ROBUST business continuity and incident management planning software available free
These statistics are based on information supplied by loss adjusters to the FPA on a voluntary basis and not all insurers conducting business in the UK contribute to this dataset. They represent only sums paid out where the total loss is in excess of £100k and are deficient of losses under
£100K, deductibles, underinsurance, uninsured, self-insured and captively insured components, which may be significant. In a year, total losses captured typically account for 50% of the ABI declared annual fire loss figure – which is similarly deficient of the same components (except the