Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants
Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants



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Facilities Management & Fire Safety - Insurers & Property Protection - Part 12

Posted by LWF: 11/03/2019 15:08

In LWF’s blog series for those who work in Facilities Management, or who have an interest in or responsibility for fire safety, we have been looking at the impact insurers have had on property protection from fire. In part 11, we began looking at the role of the loss control surveyor (who may also be known as a fire surveyor or loss control engineer) and how they hold no responsibility for life safety concerns. We will continue from that point in Part 12.

It might seem strange that a loss control specialist will have undergone no training in fire safety legislation or even have an understanding of the basis of means of escape, but in order to do his/her job efficiently, he/she does not need to. Indeed, it is the case that the measures taken in terms of fire safety to protect life may contribute to property protection and vice versa, however the cross-over is simply fortunate and is not specified by the insurer responsible for property protection.

A loss control surveyor traditionally is interested in preventing fires rather than enforcing fire safety legislation. Slightly older fire safety legislation, such as the Fire Precautions Act, was concerned, in the main, with fire protection methods which were relevant once a fire had started. At that point it seemed that fire insurers and fire safety legislation were coming at the issue from two different angles and never the twain, etc. However, these days with the requirement that employers undertake fire risk assessments, there is much more attention paid to fire risks, hazards and preventing fires and a greater alignment with the work of a loss control surveyor carrying out a property fire risk assessment.

Upon occasion, Fire and Rescue Authorities have assumed that fire insurers will have a great interest in the fire risk assessment carried out by the occupier and will insist that it has been completed. However, this is not necessarily so, as the main purpose of the employer’s fire risk assessment is to ensure the safety of building occupants in case of a fire. It can be said that insurers do grow more interested in the mandated fire risk assessments than in previous years, as they are likely to contribute to a reduction in fire losses.

Insurers may become very interested in the fire risk assessment undertaken by the building occupier when their approach relates to either employers or public liability insurance. Prior to 1880 when the Employers’ Liability Act was passed, an injured employee who was unable to work had almost no recourse against his employer and court cases were routinely found in favour of the employer. The act removed some of the traditional defences used by the employer in certain classes of employment and, particularly in those working areas, a demand for insurance arose.

In 1998, the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations were passed meaning that every employer is bound by law to have sufficient insurance with an indemnity limit of at least £5 million to pay for any compensation awarded to employees for injury or death as a result of employer negligence. 

In part 13 of this series, LWF will continue looking at property protection and the role of the insurer by considering those elements intended to protect life against those intended to protect property from fire. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years' experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF's publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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