Deliberate construction fires spike ‘deeply concerning’
BOTH INDUSTRY leaders and fire safety experts expressed their concerns about a ‘sharp’ rise in the number of deliberate fires on construction sites since 2015.
Construction News reported on the data sourced from the Home Office as part of an investigation into site fires, which revealed that ‘intentionally caused’ fires grew by nearly 43% between 2015 and 2017. In 2015, there were 119 deliberately caused fires, or one third of that year’s total of 376, and by 2017 this had increased to 170, accounting for 42% of the total of 199 fires, the ‘highest on record’ since 2011.
While statistics were not yet available for 2018, the data revealed that overall the total number of construction site fires has ‘been on an upwards trajectory’ for the last four years, after a drop of 25% in the overall number of fires on site from 2010 to 2012. From 2013 to 2017, the total number climbed by 22%, and during 2013 there were 334 construction site fires, increasing to 408 in 2017, the aforementioned highest number recorded since 2011, which had seen 426 fires.
However, despite deliberate fires having grown since 2015, fires caused by on site activity have been ‘on a slow and steady decline’, as between then and 2017 fires caused by ‘placing combustible articles too close to heat’ dropped by 29%, while fires caused by faulty appliances and leads dropped by 38%. Finally, misuse of equipment fires fell by 26%.
In response to the deliberate fires statistics, Fire Brigades Union national officer Dave Green stated that the union was ‘deeply concerned’, and added: ‘Deliberately caused fires put the lives of workers, firefighters, and members of the public at risk. Fire safety is crucial in all workplaces, but construction sites carry a particular risk. Regular fire safety inspections are vital to ensuring that construction sites and workers remain safe.’
Mark Shepherd, head of general insurance policy and assistant director of the Association of British Insurers, said he was ‘alarmed’ by the findings, especially as the cost of fire and explosion claims for commercial property insurers grew to £945m in 2017. He stated: ‘This highlights the importance of effective risk management, particularly on construction sites, where insurers work closely with their customers on how best to mitigate fire risk.’