Building on Fire

We will often request that a copy of a Fire Risk Management Plan (FRMP) is sent to us to be reviewed if we agree to provide cover for a construction project.

We assess each enquiry on its own merit, and if we believe that the potential risk is high enough, perhaps due to the size of the existing structure, the nature of the works – or indeed because of both combined, then we want to be satisfied that the contractor has thought seriously about the risk of fire at that particular premises.

What are we looking for?

A lot of construction companies will have a set of ‘template’ documents, one of which will usually be relating to the risk of fire. On many occasions we will request a copy of the Fire Risk Management Plan and this is what we receive. It will contain a lot of statements suggesting what they intend to do, such as ‘the property must have fire extinguishers installed’ – but it is not a document which states that such measures are actually in force.

By sending us a copy of a template fire risk management document, it is not giving us evidence that they have fully considered the potential risks  at the property they are going to be working on. For example, it’s one thing to send us a document which includes a sentence saying that any property they work on will be a no smoking site, but what we’d be looking for is the evidence of where the designated smoking area is in relation to the building in question. Often a Fire Site Plan would demonstrate this. A Fire Site Plan is some form of a floorplan of the existing property/site, outlining the location of fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, fire alarms, the fire assembly point and the designated smoking area. It would often also show the escape routes in the event of a fire.

The crucial point here, is that the Fire Risk Management Plan needs to be unique. If it looks like a document that could apply to any given property within the UK, then it’s likely that it will be deemed unacceptable to us.

We are not asking for anything that the contractor shouldn’t be undertaking anyway

Particularly with projects in London, there are a surprisingly high number of occasions where there is apparently no intention for the contractor to undertake any kind of Fire Risk Management. Whilst this might be excusable for a single story extension in a rural location, it is deeply concerning when referring to large properties in built-up areas, such as those within the capital. 

We wouldn’t tend to request an FRMP for the smaller projects, but for the bigger London contracts we would expect that a Fire Risk Assessment is carried out and documented regardless of whether our insurance policy is requesting one.

The client should be just as alarmed

If a client is allowing a contractor into their £1.5M property to undertake £750k of works over a 12 month period (for example), then they should be just as concerned as we are if that contractor is not looking to make any attempt at managing the potential fire risk during that time.

The client could be of the opinion that if a fire occurred, the insurance would simply ‘pay out’, and if the contractor wasn’t interested in the fire risk then it doesn’t matter as long as they are put back in the same position they were in prior to the loss. However, would that client really want to go through the stresses of a large claim when it could have all been avoided if the contractor had ensured that the fire risk was managed appropriately in the first place?

The way we see it, the client shouldn’t be looking at us as the ‘bad guys’, because we are asking for additional information as part of our insurance – they should be asking why their contractor is not prepared to think about what happens to their property.

More information on Fire Risk Management Plans, along with a handful of other useful ‘risk management’ literature can be found here .

Categories: Blog, Industry Knowledge

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