Water damage on construction sites: If only we knew!

David Reynolds, Head of Risk Engineering and Surveys at RiskSTOP Group, suggests we all do what we can to raise awareness of excellent free guidance…

THERE WAS A TIME in the late 1980s, when fires on construction sites became so frequent and severe that many in the insurance industry began to question whether it was commercially viable for them to continue to provide cover. An important move was the subsequent publication of ‘The Joint Code of Practice for Fire Prevention on Construction Sites’.


Fast forward to now, and while we still have around 300 fires on construction sites every year in the UK, the frequency and size of high-profile fires on construction sites has significantly fallen. I now find, through risk surveys, that the majority of sites are largely compliant with the code and site personnel are well versed in its contents.


This Joint Code of Practice, produced by the RISCAuthority and Fire Prevention Association (FPA) is currently in its 9th iteration and has been made freely available online. You can access a copy here


History repeating?

As is often the case, one hazard tends to be replaced by another and we now find that water, rather than fire, has become the biggest cause of property loss on construction sites.


This can be by way of rainwater ingress when a project has not been made adequately water-tight ahead of internal fit out works, or escape of water due to poorly fitted water pipes not being tested before being connected up.


The costs associated with these incidents can be immense. According to one insurer, water escaping from a failed joint at a high-rise development in London recently led to a £25 million claim.


So, what can be done to prevent these kinds of losses? Well, just as we have for fire on construction sites, there is excellent guidance out there. However, unlike the RISCAuthority and FPA publication I mentioned above, this one doesn’t seem to be quite so well known.


‘Managing Escape of Water Risk on Construction Sites’ from the Construction Insurance Risk Engineers Group (CIREG) is now up to its 5th edition, but from my visits to sites it appears that many construction companies remain oblivious to its existence.


What does the guidance cover?

This lack of awareness is a shame, because the guidance is excellent and if implemented would, in my view, have a significant and positive impact on both the frequency and severity of water damage losses.


As well as looking at overall management, design considerations and installation quality and standards, it offers helpful guidance around mitigation and emergency response. A useful ‘Water Management Plan Template’ is also provided. And just like the Joint Code for Fire Prevention, ‘Managing Escape of Water Risk on Construction Sites’ can be downloaded free of charge. It’s available here


So, let’s make sure any of us connected within the insurance industry or the risk management profession helps to raise the profile of this information and gets it out there where it's needed most. Please share with your construction clients.


For more than 30 years, David Reynolds has been an advocate of sound risk management, seeking to positively influence everyone he’s met to prevent loss and protect lives. If you share his passion for risk management knowledge, ideas, evaluation and sound judgement and the positive outcomes this all can lead to for people and organisations, please connect with David on Linkedin

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