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Catching fire: Protecting construction customers from arson

At a glance

  • Arson is a growing threat for the construction sector and now accounts for 40% of all fires at construction companies at a cost of £400 million per year
  • A clear arson prevention strategy can protect lives, equipment and properties
  • Zurich’s Best Practice Guidance for Construction Companies offers practical advice for your construction customers

The UK riots of 2011 were a stark reminder of how many UK companies can potentially be vulnerable to arson and fire damage. On construction sites, the costs and damage from fire are amplified due to the types of materials and equipment kept on site.

The Home Office estimates that construction firms in England and Wales are affected by 104,000 fires each year. These figures were backed up by the RISC Authority, a scheme for the advancement of risk management within the fire and security sectors, which also revealed that more than 40% of all construction sector fires are now lit deliberately, equating to 11 fires every day.

It is estimated that arson is costing the construction sector £400 million a year, but the damage does not just extend to property loss. For construction companies that suffer business interruption and lost man-hours as a result of arson, the costs multiply even further. Then there is the human tragedy, which sees approximately two people die and 53 injured every week in arson attacks.

For construction customers, a clear arson prevention strategy can help them protect life, property, equipment and their business.

Zurich’s Best Practice Guidance for Construction Companies outlines what an effective fire risk assessment needs to take into account

Unfriendly fire

Whereas most companies that suffer fires are often the victims of an unfortunate accident, those who are targeted by arsonists or criminals face greater risks due to their deliberate intention to cause maximum damage.

By reviewing and changing security arrangements as the situational circumstances of a site changes, the potential for damage can be limited, For example, if flammable materials are being used on a job, the foreman should ensure they are stored safely and kept out of reach of any fire or criminal action.

Practical prevention

Zurich’s Best Practice Guidance for Construction Companies outlines what an effective fire risk assessment needs to take into account, including understanding whether the location of a site increases its vulnerability.


It also outlines how a site can be regularly checked to identify the prime targets for arson attacks or flammable equipment and areas.

However, Zurich’s Best Practice Guidance for Construction Companies does not just detail the best defence against deliberate fires. Working in partnership with solicitors DAC Beachcroft LLP, the report draws upon the expertise of Zurich’s in-house Risk Engineering team to outline the best-practice guidance for your construction customers to minimise the threat of theft, trespassing and deliberate damage. This includes material theft, vulnerable outbuildings, alarms and, if necessary, the need for security patrols.

Also be sure to check The Fire Code of Practice or contact your usual Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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