Recent spate of fires caused by electrical faults suggests businesses need to check electrical systems

Recent fires at premises as diverse as Chester Zoo and Notre Dame Cathedral are suspected to have been caused by electrical faults. Northamptonshire has also seen a spate of local fires, with the extent of damages ranging from localised businesses to entire areas of business parks and ultimately causing significant disruption to local industries. This shines a spotlight on the need for businesses to manage their fire exposures, and address the system of checks required to comply with the requirement of many commercial insurance policies.

The average year sees almost 8,000 electrical fires in the UK leading to nearly 4,000 injuries and over 30 deaths*. Whilst Electricity at Work Regulations require precaution to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity in work activities, there is no statutory obligation for a business to carry out regular, formal electricity safety tests.

Whilst a system of check isn’t specified by statute, most commercial insurance policies are written on the condition that electrical systems and equipment, including portable appliances are inspected regularly and fixed wiring systems are certified every three or five years. A failure to comply with this condition, or for your broker to highlight this, can void the cover on your policy and cause businesses to self-fund the payment of an insurance claim, as the cover would not respond as intended. As claims costs can quickly escalate to thousands of pounds, many businesses would be faced with a significant issue.

Whilst electrical faults are a major cause of fires, Towergate Northamptonshire’s Director Andrew Kelly advises that businesses can best protect themselves by having a maintenance schedule for electrics and machinery, and by ensuring the fixed electrics have been certified and any remedial actions carried out. It would also be beneficial to pay particular attention to those that are classified as higher risk and use a diary system; in our experience, contractors do not send reminders that the inspection is due.

Locally we have seen a number of large fires of late, fire services are stretched as ever (if not more so) however, we have a couple of helpful points below to take into consideration when trying to mitigate fire risk;

Use of sub contractors – Most insurance policies will have a ‘use of heat’ condition embedded within the policy wording. Therefore, it is best to ‘lift’ that wording and have all contractors visiting site complete it prior to works commencing arson- Your fire alarm should be connected to the main alarm system so a notification can be sent to the fire brigade. Flood lights and physical protection can act as a deterrent but many burglars will also set a premises alight after a break-in – physical security cannot be ignored.

With many causes of electrical fires posing serious risks to businesses and individuals alike, it is important that protective solutions to these are sought out. If you haven’t had an electrical inspection within the last year, talk to us at Towergate Northamptonshire for effective and comprehensive risk management advice.

For more information visit www.towergate.com or phone 01604 887300. Towergate Insurance Brokers is a trading name of Towergate Underwriting Group Limited. Registered in England No.4043759. Registered Address: 1 Minster Court, Mincing Lane, London EC3R 7AA. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.