The claims surge can be attributed to the pandemic, says product lead

Construction plant fire claims for UK sites doubled in 2020 as contractors overworked machinery in a bid to get construction projects back on track following the coronavirus lockdowns and subsequent site shutdowns, according to specialist engineering and technology insurer HSB.

Its claims data showed a surge in plant fire claims in the second and third quarters of 2020 - these operational fires were mainly due to increased hydraulic hose failures and electrical faults, indicating that equipment was being worked harder to make up for lost working time during the pandemic lockdowns, noted the insurer.

Plant is an industry term used to describe heavy machinery and equipment used during construction works.

HSB explained that fires caused by hose failure often occur if hydraulic fluids are sprayed onto hot working parts of equipment. Furthermore, running plant with constantly low fluid levels can also present a substantial risk of fire and damage.

John Nicholls, product lead for construction at HSB, said: “Our claims data provides a clear indication that the pandemic has impacted the number of plant fire claims we have seen.

“As construction sites re-mobilised after the first lockdown and contractors sought to steer projects back on schedule, plant was worked harder than usual, placing additional stress on working parts and electrical systems.

“With projects typically operating to tight deadlines, the repercussions of out of action equipment can be costly.”

Regular visual inspections of working parts, hydraulic lines, fluid levels, the engine bay, electrical system and electrical control, coupled with scheduled maintenance, can mitigate the risk of operational fires occurring, HSB recommended.