Ten waste facility fires in Melbourne in the past 10 months are putting the heat under insurance premiums for business owners, signalling the need for tighter management of flammable materials on site.
The most recent fire began in a processing machine surrounded by bales of waste at a recycling warehouse in Laverton North in the late afternoon on 9 July 2019. Eleven trucks, two aerial units, a rescue unit and more than 40 firefighters were needed to contain the blaze – an expensive undertaking.
While all staff were safely evacuated, dead fish, eels and birds have washed up along the banks of the adjacent Stony Creek and the Yarra River. In February the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed hefty fines and banned the business’s Laverton and Coolaroo sites from accepting waste after finding dangerous stockpiles of combustible waste at both facilities, triggering a recycling crisis in Melbourne. The ban was lifted in March.
After this latest fire the business can expect increased scrutiny, since it’s the third at the company’s sites in as many years. Gallagher specialist Russell Boucher, the endorsed broker of both the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association and the Waste Management Association of Australia, says this frequency also has implications for other waste recyclers as property insurance premiums can only be expected to spike in response to the high level of incidence.
“Business owners should be prepared to pay significantly more for their property insurance or take up a higher excess,” he warns.
He advises waste and recycling centres to ensure they’re following best practice in risk management. “It’s vital that all waste and recycling facilities ensure their machinery is regularly maintained by qualified technicians. That will help minimise a range of risks, ensuring your business and staff are as protected as possible.”
And, he points out, there’s a strong incentive for showing evidence of preventative measures. “A further reason to ensure waste recycling facilities have the very best plans in place to reduce their risks is that businesses that can demonstrate they have robust risk mitigation processes in place will see this reflected in their premiums,” he says.
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Boucher advises waste facility operators to plan ahead by working with their insurance broker to present their risk in the most positive way to insurers during negotiations at renewal time.