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Insurer calls for contractors to use thermal imaging cameras

24 Feb 20 With more than 100 fires a year on UK construction sites caused by grinding, welding and torching, a leading insurance company is calling for contractors to adopt an extra level of protection for their hot works.

Zurich UK is calling on contractors to adopt thermal imaging cameras to reduce the incidence of fires on construction and refurbishment sites, which lead to millions of pounds worth of damage each year.

The insurance company says that £400 handheld thermal imaging cameras could help tackle the problem and their use should be adopted them as standard on vulnerable sites.

Kumu Kumar, director of risk engineering for Zurich UK, said: “Fires caused by hot work have a devastating impact on lives, businesses and communities. The construction industry already has robust hot work controls in place but with fires continuing to break out, additional measures are urgently needed. Thermal cameras could further strengthen the industry’s existing safeguards and help to detect more hot spots before they ignite. The devices can also be used to take time-stamped photos to demonstrate fire watches have been carried out.  Although there is no single solution for preventing hot work fires, this is a relatively cheap and simple measure that could have a far-reaching impact, especially if the cameras are adopted as standard.”

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Home Office data obtained by Zurich shows that between January 2015 and March 2019, fire crews in England attended 1,587 construction fires, of which 28% were caused by hot work, or other sources of heat.

Zurich’s own claims data shows that 15% of the total cost of all UK fires in commercial and industrial properties involve hot work. The last three years has seen the cost of damage spike to £250m.

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors is backing Zurich’s suggestion. Safety, health & environmental officer Gary Walpole said: “The NFRC encourages the use of any technology that improves health and safety and within this guidance we recommend the use of thermal cameras, which are relatively cheap compared to the cost associated with fire, and the dangers posed to contractors and the general public.”

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