Competition is hotting up in the engineering inspection market as companies claim that strong levels of business growth are driving the sector forward.

Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) leads the market with some 560 inspectors in the UK. Next is Zurich Risk Services with 510, closely followed by Allianz Cornhill. But the latter is growing fast and understood to be hiring more recruits.

Meanwhile, Bureau Veritas, which purchased Plant Safety, is looking to reach more brokers and is claiming to be able to offer a wider range of expertise than some of the more traditional providers.

While many of the UK's largest companies buy their inspection services direct, the majority of business comes as a result of broker recommendation.

Terry Dyson, sales and marketing leader for R&SA Engineering, said business was being fuelled by increased EU and health and safety legislation and fears over corporate manslaughter rulings. "National brokers dominate the market, but we are seeing increased business from the provincials," he said.

He added that the main challenge was in recruiting quality staff as engineer surveyors. "There is a declining manufacturing sector and it's particularly tough in the south of England."

Last year Allianz Cornhill Engineering launched an engineering development programme to boost its career path for staff. "The inspection market is growing and we've taken on more surveyors. Things are more stable now, but in general, I would say the market is still growing a couple of points above inflation," said business manager Phil Godwin.

Phil Moore, head of engineering for Zurich Risk Services, said a shortage of engineering graduates was also causing problems. "We've improved our training and development for staff," he added.

He said there was major growth in electrical inspection work in particular.

Graeme McLeish, head of business development for Bureau Veritas, agreed with the steep increase in demand for electrical inspections, saying: "This is a stable market where there is client loyalty, but we are keen to speak to more brokers about our services.

"Beyond the traditional inspections, we also focus on areas such as asbestos and water testing."