Sprinkler systems have been proven to save lives and minimise disruption for businesses by containing and controlling fires quickly, thus reducing fire and water damage. Yet, only 20% of industrial buildings up to 10,000 square metres have fire sprinklers installed.
In England and Wales, sprinklers need only be fitted in larger single storey warehouses which exceed 20,000 square metres, as per guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Insurers believe it’s time the rules on fire sprinklers in new warehouses are changed.
Speaking on behalf of its members, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) highlights how average claims have topped £25,000 for the first time, surging 165% over the past decade.
To put the law in England and Wales into perspective, in countries like France and the Netherlands, sprinklers are compulsory for sites as small as 3,000 square metres.
Do the rules need updating?
Well, logic would suggest that it would be a good idea to make the installation of sprinklers compulsory even in modest-sized industrial buildings, as well as in care homes and schools.
For some, it probably comes as a surprise that in the ‘age of health and safety’ sprinkler systems are not, in many cases, essential to meeting building regulations.
Aside from being potentially lifesaving, sprinklers also help with business continuity by minimising disruption and allowing businesses to get back to normal as soon as possible.
Also, when sprinklers are installed there may be significant benefits in respect of compliance with Approved Document B of the Building Regulations 2000, such as being permitted to build industrial units closer together and seeing certain requirements in respect of access for the fire service be relaxed.
Maybe not just yet…
While the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association says “it is clear that future legislation will call for the increased use of sprinklers”, DCLG is wary about making businesses’ lives harder by introducing more rules.
It stresses that sprinklers “are not the only way to protect buildings” and it wants firms to make “informed decisions about fire safety measures that are appropriate to their circumstances”.
We’d suggest that this debate could rumble on for a little while. Be assured that our highly experienced staff of loss adjusters and claims managers will be following it to its conclusion.