International Water Mist Association annual conference highlights: Industrial oil cooker protection from the insurance point of view, Stuart Lloyd, Zurich Insurance, UK

Published:  12 December, 2013

Stuart Lloyd ran through the impact of business interruption (and associated costs); how insurance companies react to claims; and suitable protection as accepted by insurance companies.

Food manufacturing facilities are considered high risk and Zurich has seen huge losses in this sector, mainly due to the composite construction materials used in these types of buildings. ‘Polystyrene inserts are great to keep clean but they are highly flammable.’

Fires in cookers have always had a history of generating large fires. These claims are split into two: material damages (i.e. centred around a building, plant and stock), and business interruption.

Lloyd demonstrated what business interruption looked like ‘in the real world’. One (unprotected) fryer in England resulted in material damage of £922,000 and business interruption of £153,000. Another in Scotland resulted in a claim for material damage of £7.5m and business interruption claim of £4.2m.’One of these didn’t have sprinkler protection – although it did have some local applications on some kit. It has been demolished since and company lost 300 staff. They lost 50% of their customers.’

In recent years Lloyd has noticed an important trend in the industry involving companies closing two or three plants and moving operations into a single building. ‘And if they lose that one place they lose everything.’

The value of claims has risen sharply since 2005 and they are still going up – which is leading insurance companies to avoid these risks; increase the premiums to offset losses; share the risks with other insurers; insist on sprinkler protection to protect buildings; and insist on local application systems on the inception hazard. ‘If you get the right level of protection, the insurers are more prepared to take on values because they expect to pay out less in the event of a claim.’

In terms of industrial oil protection the fire protection options are CO2, spray, and water mist. ‘The preference is for water mist because insurers like its cooling effect and there is less chance of re-ignition than with CO2. We feel it is critical in particular food risk that we have this kind of system.'

However, these water mist systems must meet the criteria specified by insurers. In the UK the Fire Protection Association and a number of insurers have developed an 18-page questionnaire based on ANSI FM 5560 (a recognised benchmark) seeking all the details they expect from a properly carried out hazard analysis for the purpose of designing and installing a system. ‘Information includes test criteria, components – down to the nozzles, valves and panels – and distance to combustible panels and other processes.’

As part of the 5560 requirements Lloyd expects to see listed components; fire tests that are representative of the actual kit to be protected; water supply duration and integrity; and protection for extract ducts and filter boxes.

‘What we find in the UK is sometimes the water supply durations have been cut down to create a smaller water supply footprint, because they expect to get extinguishment within a couple of minutes - but don’t necessarily have the data to back that up.

‘We also expect the extract duct and the filter boxes to be protected. That’s from our loss experience. That is where fires tend to start and sometimes it’s down to the customer because he doesn’t do his maintenance correctly.’

Acceptance is based on a system that is listed, certified or approved by a recognised laboratory, and is designed, installed and maintained in accordance to a published standard or code, addressing the intended purpose. ‘That it is maintained according to manufacturers’ literature is particularly pertinent for water mist as there is no standard guide.

‘Where the system doesn’t have appropriate listing or not covered by an applicable code or standard we have no basis to accept the system because it is the unknown.’

Locations with systems that do not fall within these criteria will be treated as being unprotected. ‘And if big values are at risk we will insist that a system is ripped out and replaced with a compliant system.’

Lloyd shared a recent experience involving a company with 30 deep fat fryers that had been requested to get some protection. The company received five quotations, all claiming to be in accordance with NFPA 750, and all offering 24/7 protection, guaranteeing to put out a fire. ‘But none had any test data to back that up. And in fact when we pushed them, two were based on Kitchen Galley ISO 15371 fire protection standard, and three were based on IMO cabin tests.’

Going back to the earlier fryer fire example in England, Lloyd explained that the company had at first walked away after seeing the premiums rise. ‘This year he came back and said a water mist system had been installed on his fryer. This fryer holds 2,360 litres of oil. We said fine, please give us the details. The fire protection system was based on IMO 913 – fixed water-based local applications fire-fighting systems on board ships – which was designed for 25.9 litres of oil. We said we wouldn’t accept the business.’ The company and his broker are now in legal discussions with the installer.

In another incident, involving a potato fryer protected by CO2, the costs were recovered from the installer, who had neglected the maintenance side of the contract. ‘And the installation wasn’t in accordance with the standard and – without getting too technical – there were basically open ends on this fryer, and the system had been designed as if it were an enclosed system. So the actual cost we paid out to the insured and then we chased the installer because he had put in a system that was not fit for purpose.’

The last example that Lloyd offered was an ongoing case involving £17.4m. ‘Typically, as insurers we are trying to recover as much as we can from two parties. One is the installer, and the other is the actual customer. The customer was given the right advice, but they chose on the basis of price to go with a different system because it was cheaper. And the people who installed the system said they thought it would be appropriate.’

Concluding, Lloyd said insurers liked water mist for food applications and other environments such as motorsport engine tests. ‘We push water mist but we want to see it done correctly.

‘Unfortunately there are some contractors out there who use the kit in applications that are not really appropriate. And I wouldn’t want water mist not to develop and advance because people decide to take a risk. That could kill the industry before it has had the chance to become more accepted, and we wouldn’t want that as we see value in it.’

The IWMA’s annual conference took place in Paris 16-17 October. The 2014 event will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, 22-23 October 2014. For more information visit: http://www.iwma.net/

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