LOSS CONTROL ALERT. Water Damage Prevention Sprinkler Contractors

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1 LOSS CONTROL ALERT Water Damage Prevention Sprinkler Contractors The Problem Claims for water damage arising from sprinkler system leakage are the largest source of general liability losses for Sprinkler Contractors. Almost eight out of ten claims (79%) and over seven dollars out of every ten (72%) in paid claims for sprinkler contractors come from sprinkler leakage. The cost per claim is high averaging about $20,000. Sprinkler leakage claims are of two primary types, claims which occur while the sprinkler contractor is on the premises and at work, and claims which occur later, after the work is complete. The largest claims occur after the work is finished and the building has been occupied. Common causes for these claims include: Leaving sprinkler heads exposed to physical damage, installing defective heads and improper installation. Failure of or leakage from couplings and fittings. Pipes or components bursting due to freezing, primarily because systems that were supposed to be dry pipe systems were left with water in them or from extending wet pipe systems into or through areas subject to freezing. Improper gluing of plastic pipe or failure to allow sufficient cure time before pressurizing the system leading to joint separation. Special Precautions for CPVC Sprinkler Piping More and more jobs are specifying CPVC piping rather than the traditional metal piping as a cost saving measure. Using CPVC piping in sprinkler jobs involves special hazards that can cause water damage and special precautions and work procedures are required to prevent water damage claims. See the special section on Preventing Water Damage Claims on CPVC Piping Jobs at the end of this document. Preventing Sprinkler Leakage Claims Contractual responsibilities, hold harmless agreements and insurance verification Work contracts should clearly identify the responsibilities of each party involved in the installation, including any sub-contracted operations. Contracts for sub-contractors should include hold harmless provisions and require evidence of general liability insurance with limits equal to the contractor. Refer to Everest Loss Control Alert, Risk Transfer Techniques at If any valuable or highly sensitive equipment exists, the contract should specify the owner s responsibility to move or protect these items before work begins. If a wet sprinkler system is to be installed in a normally unheated area, the contract should clearly state that it is the responsibility of the building owner to provide and maintain heat. Define the impaired sprinkler system notification requirements of the owner s business insurance policies and local jurisdictions, and designate who has the responsibility of the building owner to provide and maintain heat. When making the notifications., some jurisdictions require notification to the local fire department. Identify the need for a fire watch during the work or overnight if the sprinkler system cannot be returned to full operating condition the same day, designate who will provide the fire watch and what their duties will be. If there is a Central Station alarm system, determine who has the responsibility of making the alarm company notifications. Responsibility to communicate proposed changes or modifications to the specifications and approval of these changes prior to implementing them. Pre-Job Inspection before beginning any work on an existing building, the entire building should be inspected for existing and potential problems. Take photographs or make video recordings to document pre-existing conditions and problem areas. Address these problems in the work contract. Require the building owner to make repair s before the work commences or include these repairs in the scope of work specifications or list these as specific exclusions. Inspection Items: Evidence of past or current sprinkler system leakage; Evidence of improper work by other contractors; Examine building modifications such as the addition or removal of internal walls, build- out of un-sprinklered office, changes to the sprinkler piping (including heat tape for freeze protection), changes to or removal of insulation around finished areas, turning off heat in suspected freeze areas; Identify changes in the building occupancy, storage of high value materials, rack storage or hazardous materials requiring a higher water density and in-rack protection; Look for damage to the existing sprinkler system from powered industrial trucks, high lifts or construction work and maintenance activities; Locate sprinkler control valves for the work area and for adjacent areas.

2 Page 2 Preventing Claims During the Work Once work begins, the job supervisor is the contractor s first line of defense against claim incidents. It is the supervisor s responsibility to: Make initial notifications Assure that the initial required notifications that the sprinkler system is being taken out of service have been made. Turn off the water Turn off the water, and conduct tests to ensure that the correct valve has been turned off and that the valve is fully closed. In larger building with multiple sprinkler control valves, verify that the work area is not supplied by multiple valves. Once this has been done, the supervisor should insure that the valve is not turned on again (accidentally or intentionally) until the work is complete and tested. The valve should be tagged out of service and locked out (if locking the valve is acceptable to the local jurisdiction). Provide spill control supplies Despite your best efforts, an unexpected leak or discharge can occur. When this happens, it is important to minimize the effect of the leak. A spill kit should be immediately available in the event of a leak. This spill kit should include large plastic containers (preferably on wheels/dollies), temporary protection such as tarps, floor squeegees, mops, pails, shop vacuums that can be used in wet environments, extra rags, absorbent granules, etc. The spill kit should be immediately available whenever a wet system is charged with water. Supervise the work Regularly inspect the work and ensure that the plan and specifications are followed. Remember the old saying: Plan the work, work the plan. Dry pipe system drain For dry pipe systems, ensure that all water has been drained from the system at the end of the work, using the low point drains, and that the drains are then fully closed. Testing the work When the work is complete, and if plastic pipe has been installed, following the manufacture s glue cure time, all parts of the sprinkler system (including piping and attached equipment) should be hydrostatically tested in accodance with the manufacturer s specifications and the contractor s standard operating procedures. A typical test for metal pipe systems is a hydrostatic test at 200 PSI for 2 hours. The system should maintain pressure for the entire 2 hours without pressure loss. Loss will be indicated by a drop in gauge pressure or visual leakage. Read the pressure from the gauge located at the lowest elevation point of the system. Document the results of the text. Warning: Some plastic pipe manufacturers do not recommend air pressure testing of plastic pipe due to the potential for injury: the pipe may shatter and explode. Plastic pipe may be tested with city water pressure. If the pressure holds for 24 hours then it may be gradually raised to the 200 PSI test point. Establish a Leak Watch When the testing is complete and ready to be charged with water, one person should always be positioned at the valve/gauges to monitor pressure. If a pressure drop occurs, indicating a major leak, that person must immediately close the control valve and operate the main drain. At the same time, the supervisor should walk the entire work area, examine the work for any evidence of leaks. Restore water to the system When the work is complete and tested (and dry pipe systems have been drained and charged with air), the sprinkler control valves that were closed should be fully reopened and out of service tags or signage removed. In a building served by multiple sprinkler control valves, it is important to verify that all valves that were closed have been reopened. Make final notifications When the system has been restored to full operation, the responsible party should make the required notifications to the city, the insurance company, local jurisdiction and the alarm company Central Station. Post-job re-inspection Initiate an inspection of completed installations about 1 week following completion of the work. The purpose is to identify any evidence of leaks or other problems. Responsibilities of the Owner When the work is complete, the responsibility for the system is handed over from the contractor to the owner. This hand-over process must be properly documented, and should include the following items: Job Progress & In-Service Notifications - The owner should be regularly briefed on the status of the installation and all approved changes or modifications to the job specifications. The owner should be notified when the system is charged and returned to service. NFPA 25 and system documentation - The owner must be given a copy of the current version of NFPA 25 and the sprinkler system s operation and maintenance instructions. Restore water to the system When the work is complete and tested (and dry pipe systems have been drained and charged with air), the sprinkler control valves that were closed should be fully reopened and out of service tags or signage removed. In a building served by multiple sprinkler control valves, it is important to verify that all valves that were closed have been reopened. Location of valves - The owner must know where all control valves are located, and which control valves control which areas of

3 Page 3 the building. Handover of keys - If the contractor installs control valve closets or provides locks for interior or exterior control valves, the contractor should clearly identify which keys open which locks and the owner must be given these keys. Test Certificates - The proper Contractors Material and Test Certificates (CM & TC) must be completed for above and below ground piping as required by NFPA 13 and given to the owner. Completion checklist - A complete inspection of the jobsite with the owner must be documented on an inspection checklist. The contractor and the owner must sign the document where the owner acknowledges that: The work was completed; The owner has received training on and understands his operation & maintenance responsibilities; All keys have been provided and; The owner received a current copy of NFPA 25. If Water Leak Incident Occurs When notified of a water leak, the contractor should respond to the site as quickly as possible. The purpose is to assist the owner in minimizing the damages, assist in the cleanup and very important gather information and document via photographs, video and witness statements exactly what happened before any evidence is modified or removed. If you cannot go to the site immediately, give the owner instructions over the phone to minimize the damage and go as soon as you can. While on site, the contractor should: Attempt to minimize the loss by making sure that the water flow is stopped, draining or collecting spilled water, protecting equipment and contents for further damage. Determine the cause(s) or the incident. Document the incident and the damage with written notes, photos and videos. Complete and send a report of loss as soon as possible to your insurance carrier. IMPORTANT: It is important at this stage not to engage in any argument(s), discussions, debates etc., or make any statements, regarding fault for the incident. Your focus should be solely upon minimizing the damages, assisting in the clean-up and documenting the incident. Preventing Water Damage Claims on CPVC Piping Jobs More and more jobs are specifying CPVC piping rather than the traditional metal piping as a cost saving measure. Using CPVC piping in sprinkler jobs involves special hazards that can cause water damage and special precautions and work procedures are required to prevent water damage claims. This section will recap some of these special precautions. Install in Strict Accordance with Manufacturer s Instructions In cases of water damage claims for sprinkler leakage, there is always a question of whether the damage is the responsibility of the pipe manufacturer or the installing sprinkler contractor. The sprinkler contractor s first line of defense in these cases is to be able to document that: The sprinkler contractor is certified to install the CPVC sprinkler piping, All of the contractor s workers have been trained to install in strict accordance with the manufacturer s instructions, and Selection of Materials All CPVC piping and materials used on the job should be approved for the specific installation and working pressures and included in the job specifications. All CPVC piping and materials used on the job should be approved for the specific installation and working pressures and included in the job specification. Use only CPVC pipe that has been stored and maintained properly. CPVC pipe and fittings deteriorate when exposed to sunlight or other sources of UV radiation. This deterioration typically makes the pipe more brittle and more likely to fail during testing and use. Do not use CPVC pipe that has been stored outdoors unless it has been covered properly, and do not use pipe that has faded in color. Keep CPVC pipe and fittings in original packaging until needed. This is to prevent both physical damage and deterioration from sunlight. Installation Methods and Procedures Each length of pipe should be visually inspected for defects and physical damage before installing. When installing CPVC piping, be sure to allow for movement caused by normal expansion in hot weather and contraction in cold weather. CPVC piping expands and contracts differently from metal piping. Use only pipe hangers designed for CPVC plastic pipe. One common problem is workers using metal pipe hangars they have available if they happen to run out of plastic pipe hangers while on the job. CPVC pipe is lighter than metal pipe. Because of this, sprinkler heads must be properly supported to prevent the water jet effect Water Damage Prevention-Sprinkler contractors November 2010

4 Page 4 from lifting the head through the ceiling when the sprinklers are activated. Use Teflon tape on sprinkler head threads and on all other threaded connections. Some pipe dope compounds are petroleum-based and can cause deterioration of the CPVC. Cut the pipe ends square using a miter box. The pipe ends must be deburred and beveled with a chamfering tool after cutting. Failure to do this can cause the pipe end to partially wipe off the cement when the pipe in inserted into the fitting, thus making the joint more likely to fail. To properly spread the cement, insert the pipe fully into the fitting and then rotate the pipe one-quarter turn. Do not connect rigid metal couplers to CPVC grooved adapters. Do not thread, groove, or drill CPVC pipe. Use Solvents, Lubricants, and Anti-Freeze Solutions Properly Use only thread sealants, gasket lubricants, and fire stop materials that are compatible with CPVC. Do not use petroleum or solvent-based sealant, edible oils (such as Crisco ) as a gasket lubricant. or non-compatible fire stop materials as these can cause deterioration of the CPVC. Use proper solvent cement approved for use with the pipe and fittings, and follow application instructions carefully. Do not use solvent cement that has exceeded its shelf life or that has become discolored or jellied. Apply solvent cement carefully. Do not allow solvent cement to run into or puddle in fittings and pipe, since accumulations can plug sprinkler head orifices. Avoid using solvent cement near ignition sources, sources of heat; and do not smoke near solvent cements or when applying them. Use only glycerin and water solutions for freeze protection. Do not use any glycol-based solutions as an anti-freeze. Mix glycerin and water solution in clean containers. Before Pressure Testing Follow the manufacturers recommended cure times prior to pressure testing. Do not pressure test the system until minimum recommended cure times are met from the last connection made in the installation. Conduct blowback testing to verify that the sprinkler system piping has no significant openings. Bleed the air from the system prior to pressure testing, and fill the lines slowly with water. During Pressure Testing Pressure test the CPVC installation in strict accordance with the manufacturer s recommendations. WARNNG: Some plastic pipe manufacturers do not recommend air pressure testing of plastic pipe due to the potential for injury: the pipe may shatter and explode. Plastic pipe may be tested with city water pressure. If the pressure holds for 24 hours then it may be gradually raised to the 200 PSI test-point. Document the results of the pressure test. Follow the procedures outlined above when pressurizing the system. Special Provisions for CPVC Piping Below the Slab When the job requires placing CPVC pipe below a concrete slab, additional special precautions must be taken. This is because leaks below the slab are difficult to detect, can take a long time to manifest, and are very expensive to repair once the slab has been poured. Use CPVC pipe and fittings that are approved by the manufacture for direct burial. Each length of pipe should be visually inspected for defects and physical damage before installing. The buried pipe should be evenly supported in smooth bottom trenches. After the below-slab piping is installed, but before pouring the slab, the pipe system MUST be pressure-tested in accordance with the manufacturer s instructions. 1" foam insulation pipe sleeve should be applied to the CPVC pipe at changes in direction, where the pipe exits the slab, and at expansion joints in the slab. Don t skimp on the sleeving where the pipe comes through the slab; allow 12 above and below the slab. Tape the sleeving to the exposed pipe to prevent slippage. Test the buried pipe twice: once before backfilling, so that any problems can be easily located, and then again after backfilling but before the slab is poured, to make sure that the pipe was not damaged during backfilling.

5 Page 5 EVEREST LOSS CONTROL ALERT Backfill over buried CPVC pipes should be free of rocks and debris that could damage the pipe. If a termiticide is to be applied, this should be done after the CPVC pipe has been backfilled. Do not allow heavy concentrations of termiticides to come into direct and sustained contact with CPVC pipe. To reemphasize: THOROUGHLY PRESSURE TEST THE BURIED PIPING IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MANUFACTURER S IN- STRUCTIONS BEFORE THE SLAB IS POURED. Remember, Everest Loss Control offers services to help you in your loss prevention efforts. If you would like more information about these services, visit our web site at Loss Control is a daily responsibility of your individual management. This publication is not a substitute for your own loss control program. The information that is provided in this Alert should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, or environments. Each organization is responsible for implementing their safety/injury/illness prevention program and should consult with legal, medical, technical, or other advisors as to the suitability of using the information contained in this Alert. The information contained in this publication is intended for general informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice or opinions. You should contact an attorney if you need legal advice and/or you have any questions concerning your obligations under any law, statute and/or code identified in this publication. CONTACT US Westgate Corporate Center 477 Martinsville Road P.O. Box 830 Liberty Corner, NJ Everest focuses on specialty property and casualty insurance business and is licensed to conduct business in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia. Everest is rated A+ XV (Superior) by A.M. Best. To learn more about Everest, visit our website at : Loss Control Department Phone: Fax:

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