Comment

04.09.17

Support for councils following Grenfell

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2017

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assessments local authorities need to have in place to protect their estate and buildings.

Somehow it seems to take a really horrendous disaster to highlight a problem. Grenfell Tower in Kensington sadly went up in flames on 14 June and the media have been reporting the event almost non-stop ever since.

Whilst issues surrounding fire safety seem to have been hugely magnified now, I’d like to iterate that the highest standards for fire safety has always been the FIA’s aim throughout the 101 years that the association has existed in its various forms over the years. We have been providing advice, guidance and training to the fire industry for a very long time.

At this time following the disaster, we should all be asking the question: how can we improve the safety of our buildings? What can we do better? What steps should we be taking to ensure the highest possible levels of fire safety?

First and foremost, the fire risk assessment of any building (except privately-owned dwellings) is a legal requirement, and must be completed by a competent person. The reason for this is that simply filling in a ‘tick sheet’ style fire risk assessment may miss out some key aspects, and the building really needs a thorough and robust assessment that analyses the hazards and risks, as well as makes recommendations to reduce or negate those risks.

It is a legal requirement that the fire risk assessment is both ‘suitable’ and ‘sufficient’. This is why a risk assessment must cover every aspect of a building – from the fire detection and alarm system, to the means of escape, to the risk of the people within the building, and much more. If you yourself are not certain that you have the skills to complete a risk assessment – hire an expert. It is far better to spend a little extra money or allocate a larger budget to this than to later find out that the risk assessment was not satisfactory.

However – a word of warning. A professional fire risk assessor legally speaking does not have to have any qualifications and may not be as ‘expert’ as they claim. For that reason, we firmly recommend using a company that has third-party certification (TPC). 

TPC is evidence that a service or product adheres to certain standards. An independent expert, the third party, has assessed the service or product and certified that it complies with those standards. TPC can cover the technical qualities of what is being provided, but it can also relate to environmental, ethical or other qualities. This allows purchasers to be confident that what they are purchasing is fit for purpose or that the supplier is capable of doing the job.

 

Fit for purpose and competent

If you purchase goods or services you want to be confident that they are fit for purpose. Not just that, it is a legal requirement for the purchaser of fire safety services to ensure that the person or organisation carrying out the work is ‘competent’.

For the convenience of those seeking services in fire safety, such as fire risk assessments (as well as other services such as installers and maintainers of fire protection equipment), the FIA has a list of third-party certified companies listed under the ‘Find a Member’ section of our website.

As a trade body, we have over 700 member fire protection companies that have all been successfully audited and certified before becoming a member. We are not interested in representing contractors who are not up to the job and who give the industry a bad name. Credibility, a reputation for high quality and second-to-none service are what FIA members are about.

The events at Grenfell may have highlighted the need for stronger fire safety measures. It might even seem that from the sudden influx of attention from national media that our calls for stronger regulations and higher levels of professionalism are a knee-jerk reaction to a frankly terrible situation – but the fact remains that the FIA has been calling for higher levels of professionalism of those contracted to perform fire risk assessments and install and maintain fire products for a long time.

This is why we promote the use of TPC companies – as this is the only way to tell if a company can do a job as well and as competently as they say they can.

We also have many years of technical and fire safety-related legal expertise behind us and are available for over-the-phone support should the need arise for some advice or guidance. Our website also has a range of publications in PDF format that may be of use when deciding which professional fire risk assessor to hire.

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