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Unattended machinery


The need to maximise output in today’s booming manufacturing industries means that machinery is more commonly left in operation when the workplace is vacated or unsupervised. From a business perspective this makes perfect sense as you can start a process going at 6pm and it will be finished when employees return at 6am, ready for finishing and dispatch.



However, from an insurance perspective it is important to remember to notify your insurer or broker of any processes within your business that occur out of hours. Insurers usually define an unattended process as one that, once set up, “is required to continue for a prolonged period of time without intervention or periodic monitoring by personnel.”

Unattended processes are typically an exclusion under most policies due to the risk of fire, but cover can be agreed subject to meeting certain criteria.



A drop in oil level or other anomaly can result in fires in electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment. A single spark can cause a flash fire in any machining operation where there’s coolant oil or oil vapour present. A supplementary fire suppression system can guard against machine fires causing a catastrophe. In fact, they represent a small percentage of the cost of investment in a modern CNC machines and a fraction of the cost of repairing major fire damage.

Titanium fires: if hot enough, fine chips of titanium can ignite creating a fire hazard for machines. Fires sparked by titanium and other types of metals are classified as Class D fires. They represent a severe hazard because they burn at very high temperatures and react violently to water and certain chemicals.



Have a plan. Make sure you have a plan to prevent fires. Studies show 43% of businesses closed by a significant fire never reopen. Another 29% fail within three years after reopening.

Make preventing fires a priority concern, especially if you run unattended machines. We highly recommend safeguarding equipment using supplementary fire suppression systems. A typical installation involves mounting a pressurised cylinder containing a fire suppression agent and routing the fire detection tubing to the work zone inside the machine. The cylinder is usually located on the side or rear of the machine out of the way. Systems usually use foam, dry chemicals, water, CO2, FM-200 and 3M Novec 1230 to extinguish fires.



RISC Authority guidance documentation may be downloaded free of charge from Please note any fire protection system to be installed to protect unattended process equipment should be subject to a fire risk assessment and consultation with your insurer.



We have reviewed several insurance programmes recently where a client has innocently not disclosed an unattended machinery process, quite simply because they did not know that this was an issue.

This blog is simply a cautionary note – all manufacturers, machinery and machinery processes are different. At ProAktive we completely understand this, however, what is certain is that you MUST disclose these processes to your insurers and the tide is turning; the general appetite to accept these processes without robust fire risk management procedures in place is significantly diminishing.

If you are in any doubt or have any queries with regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01302 341 344.

By Dane Turner Dip CII – Broking Manager


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