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Spate of damaging fires in South Africa

10 March 2022 Riskonet

Baseline risk assessment approach is needed says top risk management consultancy

A fire at a popular Sandton eatery is the latest at several buildings and national key points around the country and the insurance industry should be sounding the alarm bells.

The latest blaze was at the popular Greenhouse restaurant. In early January, the Parliament building in Cape Town was severely damaged by a fire and just over a month later a huge fire broke out in a building at a food outlet, on Durban’s AB Xuma Street.

Fires have also been reported at the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria and the Komani Town Hall, which houses the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality.

While the causes of these fires will obviously differ, Chris Brits the South African Managing Partner at Riskonet – a global safety and risk management consultancy says negligence, complacency, the inability to monitor standards by regulatory authorities and poor infrastructural maintenance are most likely the common causes and this should put the insurance industry on notice.

Notes Brits, “Fire accidents are always unexpected and as we have seen, can happen instantly and with it comes huge trauma and monetary loss. An increase in fire incidents is also not just confined to South Africa. According to the Allied Market Research company the global fire insurance market size was valued at $58bn in 2019 and is expected to reach around $120bn in 2028. And that inevitably means a growth in premiums. It is vital that businesses conduct regular risk audits on their premises to see where the weak points are and take corrective action.”

He says staff working in any fire-risk environment constantly need to be appraised of the dangers of fire and to understand preventative protocols. Brits says if more attention were paid to this, it would lessen the risk of fire.

“This has become even more important given the return to live events and gatherings where in buildings fire threat points have not been checked for months. Organisations need to take a baseline risk assessment approach when it comes to fire risk and make sure they have an expert assessment done. The danger of indoor fire also tends to increase in winter months with the use of more appliances which often have poor wiring or where heating elements are exposed. “

Brits says many companies also do not understand the often-complex aspects of their fire insurance policies which can lead to contestation and dispute down the line. Again, he says, it is incumbent on business to relook at their policies, using expert risk advisors and to align these policies to the actual risks faced by the business.

 

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