Turning the Corner on Hot Works Fires

A blog from Simon Cook, Technical Account Manager – Aviva Corporate Property

During my 27 year career in risk management, it seems like fires caused by hot works have never been off my list of concerns. This seems to be the “bad smell” of fire risk management that just won’t go away. I often wonder why that is? It’s not a new problem and people know this stuff surely? Yet I am frequently reminded that isn’t necessarily true.

It’s never enough to just learn lessons when things go wrong, you need to ensure these lessons are not forgotten and that this learning is passed on to others. People need reminding too. For those with busy lives it can be difficult to differentiate what’s important, but for any business owner, staff safety and avoiding burning their premises to the ground should be a priority. 

So, what is the solution and how can we turn the corner on hot works fires? Well that has to start with education and that’s where some of Aviva’s risk management tools and support mechanisms can help businesses bring this problem under control. I remain of the belief that if people understood the risks and the best way to control them, these incidents could be avoided. 

Who needs educating?

  1. There are those who manage premises and the activities undertaken within them. Providing education to this group can help them put in place procedures and controls for managing any hot works that need to be carried out. This needn’t require prolonged training; Aviva’s free to use ‘Managing Hot Work Operations’ course covers the essentials and is available to complete on a mobile device/tablet as well as PC/Laptop for example. This course is based around our Loss Prevention Standard and can be accessed via our Partner E-Learning facility, EdApp.
  2. There are also those who undertake hot works itself, whether it’s a business’s own maintenance staff or contractors. The assumption that qualified engineers and tradesmen have been trained on hot works risks is a foolhardy one as I learned from my days in industry. Rather than rely on policing these works, it has to be better to educate and train these individuals on the risks so they understand why they need to work with suitable controls in place. Aviva can support businesses in this regard too and our upcoming Hot Works Site Induction Tool will soon be available to download from our website. This software includes training accredited by the Fire Protection Association and allows a business to issue a “Hot Works Passport” certificate with ID photo to those who have completed the training. 

What about technology?

Technological developments, such as the use of low cost thermal imaging cameras, can be effectively deployed during the works itself. This allows the Firewatcher to clearly see where heat is transferring to the areas surrounding the hot works, can be used to identify which are the best areas to focus fire watch activities and can check and monitor these areas after the works are completed to confirm that delayed and smouldering fires are not developing. Given the low cost of a camera, especially via Aviva’s Specialist Partner (PASS), the cost benefit and return on investment demonstration is an easy one to make.

So, could it really be as simple as this? It would be nice to think so. Getting people to fully understand risk so they are motivated to alter their behaviours is never a straight forward puzzle to solve but it has always struck me that education and the use of new technologies often underpin where progress is made. And that is where in my current role, advising and helping businesses reduce risk provides reward. Being able to be hands on helping customers implement these two fundamental approaches is what my time working here at Aviva is all about.