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How thermal cameras can prevent hot works losses

At a glance

  • Fires involving hot works can lead to multimillion pound losses – not to mention causing huge disruption for customers
  • Zurich is equipping its risk engineers with thermal imaging cameras to help customers stem losses before they become catastrophes
  • We explain why thermal imaging cameras can be so effective – and why many customers are now using them as part of their routine maintenance programmes

‘Hot works’ describes any construction or maintenance process that involves the use of open flames, or which generates significant heat or sparks.

As discussed in previous Insider articles, accidents involving hot works during construction or refurbishment can easily lead to multimillion pound losses.

Zurich’s analysis of the underlying causes of such fires shows that many could have been avoided with additional vigilance during the pre-work assessments and post-work fire watch periods. Thermal imaging cameras can play a crucial role in helping provide increased surveillance.

How can thermal imaging cameras help prevent hot works losses?

A thermal imaging camera is commonly used for electrical thermographic inspections. By rendering infrared radiation as visible light, users can see areas of heat that could potentially lead to a fire.

How it works

A special lens focuses the infrared light emitted by all of the objects in view. This focused light is scanned by a phased array of infrared-detector elements, which create a detailed temperature pattern called a thermogram.

The camera can be used to visually record the area pre-works to demonstrate it has been cleared of any combustible materials. Following hot works, and during any breaks, the camera should be used to scan and provide a record of the site of the hot works, and the surrounding area, an hour after work has been completed. A hot reading might indicate a fire hazard, such as smouldering embers ignited by sparks.

Other benefits of thermal imaging cameras

Thermal cameras can also be used effectively for machinery breakdown inspection programmes, conducting flat roof inspections, or identifying potential escape of water or insulation defects.

Zurich is keen to encourage greater use of thermal imaging cameras across the construction industry.

Kumu Kumar, Director of Risk Engineering, Zurich UK, explains: “It’s not yet normal practice to use thermal cameras to look for hotspots following the completion of hot works on roofing work or welding, for example. We’re now working with the construction industry to get this idea adopted as standard practice.”

Ralph De Mesquita, Principal Risk Analyst, Zurich Risk Engineering, adds: “Our risk engineers are demonstrating the thermal camera to a number of customers who are very impressed with the technology.

“Many have confirmed that they will incorporate the thermal camera into their routine maintenance programmes, which is music to our ears!“

Zurich Risk Engineering is also keen to encourage customers and contractors to adopt the Scandinavian approach to hot works, which requires contractors to complete a one-day training course before they are allowed to carry out hot work.

For more information on the use of thermal cameras, please contact your account risk engineer or email ralph.demesquita@uk.zurich.com

This article counts towards accumulating your annual CII CPD structured learning hours for Construction.

By reading this article, and correctly answering the three questions underneath, you will have achieved the following learning outcome: Identify the key benefits of using thermal cameras for construction site fire safety and maintenance.

Visit the CPD Hub to log in and begin accumulating CPD hours.

Image © Getty

Leave a comment

Jonathan Barker

November 26th, 2019 at 4:43pm

It is asking me to answer 4 questions and only 3 appear? Please advise!

Darren Atherton

February 4th, 2020 at 3:17pm

four questions? I see three?