AXA Connect

Commercial Property Claims Hints and Tips

We have collated a wide range of hints and tips designed to support your policyholder.  Areas include Fire Prevention, Flooding and Theft.

  • Fire Prevention Hints and Tips

    From 1 October 2006, fire legislation in the UK has been rationalised to provide an entirely risk based approach to fire safety, extending to all workplaces and other non-domestic premises. The new fire legislation is called the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for England and Wales. Similar changes have been made in Scotland via the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and in Northern Ireland via the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

    The concept for rationalisation includes:

    • To create one simple fire safety regime
    • The regime to be risk assessment based with responsibility for fire safety resting with a 'responsible person'.
    • The removal of formal 'fire certification' for higher risk premises.
    • A number of self-employed people and parts of the voluntary sector will be brought within the regime.
    • The need for a Fire Risk Assessment

    The following key areas must be addressed:

    • Identify the potential for fire to occur
    • Decide whether the existing controls are adequate
    • Are the current fire protection and detection systems in good repair and well maintained?
    • Is there suitable means for summoning the Fire Brigade?
    • Are the means of escape adequate?
    • Is there appropriate (and legible) fire escape signage?
    • Does emergency escape lighting provide enough illumination (Where appropriate)?
    • Are your staff trained and do they know what to do in the event of a fire?
    • Arrangements to assist in evacuation
    • Common causes of fire and how to avoid them

     

    The setting of deliberate fires by vandals, thieves or disgruntled persons is the No.1 cause of fire in the UK with over 50% of major fires being caused by arson.

    • Improve your building and site security to prevent access.
    • Make sure security devices are used and operated correctly
    • Don't provide arsonists with fuel for a fire such as stacks of pallets or waste bins close to the building. Move them away from the building and ensure they are removed from site regularly.

    Neglect and misuse of electrical wiring, fittings and equipment can easily cause fires in the workplace. This is now the second most likely cause of fire in the UK.

    • Ensure your fixed electrical systems and portable appliances in the workplace are inspected and tested on a regular basis (There is requirement to do this under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989)
    • Have any faults in wiring or fittings repaired promptly by competent electrical contractors such as NECTA or those companies that are a member of trade bodies such as NICEIC, ECA or SELECT (Scotland only)
    • Where possible, switch off electrical equipment when it is not in use, particularly at the end of the day (or shift)

    Rubbish and waste materials left to accumulate contribute to the spread of fire.

    • Make sure that you remove all waste materials from the workplace on a regular basis and place them in a suitable container. 
    • The latter should be located in a position away from the building, preferable in a metal lockable bin.
    • Where possible, the distance from the building should be 10 metres.
    • Do not burn rubbish on bonfires, even if it is thought safe to do so. They can easily get out of control and spread fire to nearby buildings or structures.

    Smoking is still a major (regularly the 3rd most likely) cause of fire in buildings.

    • Have a 'No Smoking' policy in the workplace.
    • If you have a smoking area, any seating should have only small amounts of padded upholstery.
    • A fire extinguisher should be provided in or near the area.
    • Prohibit smoking in storage areas.
    • The smoking area should be checked at the end of each day for any smoking material that has been left smouldering.

    Many small businesses have kitchens where staff may prepare food themselves.

    • Avoid deep fat frying unless a thermostatically controlled pan is provided. Even then, it is wise not to leave the pan unattended.
    • Ensure that combustible materials such as cloths and towels are kept clear of hobs.
    • Toasters and microwave ovens should not be sited in office areas. They should be located in kitchens and be tested and maintained.
    • Ensure that an appropriate fire extinguisher, supplemented by a fire blanket, is provided in any area where cooking is undertaken.

    Portable heaters can often be dangerous in the work environment, especially if placed too close to furniture, fittings and materials. Convector heaters are safer than radiant fires.

    • Ensure that they are securely guarded and properly secured to a substantial surface to prevent them from being knocked over.
    • Place them well away from any materials which could easily ignite.
    • Never drape clothing or stand papers or books on them.
    • Do not allow ventilation grills to become obstructed.
    • Clean portable heaters on a regular basis. 

    Combustible materials, such as packing materials increase the potential for fire to spread within the premises.

    • Ensure amounts brought into the premises are kept to a minimum.
    • The amounts introduced to the place of use should only be sufficient for the day's work.
    • The bulk supplies of such materials should be locked in a secure store, preferably outside the main premises.

    • If paints, solvents, adhesives, chemicals, gas cylinders or other flammable liquids are used keep them in separate storage areas well away from any sources of ignition. Such store may require to be fire resistant dependent on the quantity of flammable liquids stored.

    • Such products are treated as dangerous substances and therefore fall within the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 which requires separate risk assessment and needs employers to identify what the risks are and control against them.

    • Gas cylinders, even when empty, can explode when exposed to heat.
    • Store cylinders in proprietary storage cases  away from the premises and always dispose of empty cylinders immediately.
  • Theft Prevention / Security Hints and Tips

    Break-ins and theft pose a significant threat. For instance, through damage or theft of critical equipment required to carry out the Policyholder's business. Of course, it is very difficult to stop a determined criminal.  However, thieves rarely enter premises without weighing up the risk to themselves against the potential reward.

    A few simple precautions can greatly reduce the chances of the premises being targeted:

    • Dispense with any unnecessary doors, closing the aperture with similar materials to the remainder of the building
    • Provide substantial, preferably solid or solid core doors to the remaining openings and secure by means of quality locks and padlocks to the relevant British Standard.
    • Padlocks should have a closed hardened steel shackle to resist bolt croppers and reduce the chances of being wrenched apart.
    • Use British Standard emergency exit devices for any designated fire exits.
    • Consider steel facing any vulnerable doors and fitting hinge bolts (A must for outward opening doors).
    • Fit key operated window locks to any basement, ground floor or accessible windows such as those adjacent to flat roofs, external fire escapes or down pipes.
    • Consider fitting security grills or bars to any secluded windows or those providing access directly to high risk areas.
    • Doors to staff areas/offices/store rooms and the like should be fitted with digital locks to prevent unauthorised persons gaining access throughout the premises.
    • Ensure the perimeter walls and fences are maintained in good condition and   that gates and barriers are well secured out of business hours.
    • Consider the installation of an intruder alarm system if the premises are vulnerable or isolated, have suffered previous entries or attempted entries or contain goods attractive to thieves.
    • Ensure that the intruder alarm system is installed by a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) to EN 45011 or EN 45012.
    • Provide a remote signalling transmission service to a 24 hour manned alarm-receiving centre to ensure police attendance in the event of an alarm being triggered.
    • Take care to ensure that false alarms are not generated as police will not respond to alarm systems with an unacceptable history of false alarms.
  • Water Damage / Escape of Water / Flood / Storm

    Flooding, and the impact it can have on businesses, has been very much in the news over recent years. If a premises has been flooded before or is in an area susceptible to flooding than it is advisable to do some basic pre-planning.

    Are the premises located in an area identified as being at risk from flood?

    To find out more about this contact the Environment Agency in England and Wales (EA) or The Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland (SEPA). Information is on their websites:  www.environment-agency.gov.uk or www.sepa.org.uk.  Both websites provide an overview of flood risk by postcode where you can check if you are at risk of flooding.

    These agencies also have a 24 hour flood helpline 0345 988 1188 to alert you to potential flooding risks.

    Have a plan of action on how you will react

    This may form part of a business continuity plan details of how to compile such a plan can be found in the Risk Management Guides. This will focus actions on the safety and well being of employees and keeping the business running, focusing attention on the issues that will really matter after a major incident.

    Ensure that it is known where to isolate electrical equipment and gas appliances


    Consider if essential items can be moved from the immediate area. 

    If the premises are in an identified flooding area, consider the use of temporary flood defences. Products should be tested an approved by the British Standard Institution under PAS1188. Further advice on British Standard Kitemark approved products can be found at www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

    Removing contents from the premises if there is a flood warning should be considered. Be proactive and move things out before the flooding starts.

    • High value goods / stock
    • Computer and electrical equipment
    • Any valuable documents
    • Items that may take some time to repair or replace
    • If items are removed from the premises it is important to ensure that the cover for the goods is extended to the temporary premises.

    If you do suffer flooding at your premises, you should take the following action:

    • The Policyholder should avoid putting themselves and their employees at risk.
    • Personal safety is paramount.
    • Make sure that everyone involved in the cleaning up operation is dressed in appropriate clothing and wearing good quality rubber boots and protective gloves etc
    • If the policyholder's business includes food preparation, consultation with the Environmental Health Department over what needs to happen to have the premises reinstated for use needs to be undertaken.
    • Encourage employees to take care. Slips and trips are likely on wet surfaces and the risk of falling and causing injury is greatly increased.

    Competent building contractors should inspect building roofs annually, with remedial repairs completed promptly afterwards.

    Where possible, flat roof structures should be avoided this type of structure increases susceptibility to water penetration and reduces the overall security of the premises.

    Roof edge guttering and valley gutters should be inspected and cleared of blockage at six monthly intervals. The frequency may require to be increased where premises are surrounded with trees and vegetation.

    It is essential that drains are maintained free from obstruction and free-flowing. Where blockages are encountered, professional drain cleaning contractors should be instructed to inspect and clear blockages immediately.

    Identify the location of the stopcocks. In a situation where there is an incident involving the pipes it is imperative the stopcocks are turned off to stop the flow of water. If the water cannot be turned off immediately, open all the cold taps to drain the pipes. Don't turn on the hot taps but do turn off any heating system.

    Again, turn off the stopcocks. If the pipe is split, empty the cold water by opening the cold taps, by flushing any toilets or by siphoning water from the cistern. If the pipe isn't split, thaw it out slowly with hot water bottles or a hair dryer. Lagging pipes with foam pipe protectors can help prevent freezing.