BAFE Fire Safety Register discusses the importance of quality fire safety in housing management
As we approach the third anniversary of the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire, premises management teams need to fully understand their legal (and ethical) obligations in keeping their residents as safe as possible.
Using England and Wales as the example, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) outlines the core measures that should be undertaken to reduce fire risk and to manage this as best as possible. This includes completing a fire risk assessment, provision of fire safety equipment/systems (such as fire extinguishers and fire detection and alarm/emergency lighting systems) and ensuring these are maintained on a regular basis. These requirements are similarly detailed in the Scottish and Northern Ireland equivalents of fire safety legislation.
What is also noted in the Fire Safety Order is the use of competent persons. Part 2, Article 18 discusses safety assistance: “The responsible person must, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.”
This competency is noted as someone who “has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.” However, how exactly can you confidently confirm a fire safety service provider’s competency?
Third Party Certification
The fire safety industry has established multiple Third Party Certification schemes that independently confirm a provider’s competency. This allows premises management (Responsible People/Duty Holder) to suitably source help to fulfil their obligations with due diligence.
Third Party Certification is always for a specific service, which will never cover all services a provider may offer. Providers may have Third Party Certification for a number of services, but each service offered will have required independent assessment to provide evidence of their competency for that specific area. Therefore, it is extremely important to check your chosen providers are appropriately Third Party Certificated for the specific services for which you have contracted them.
What exactly is it?
As many readers of Housing Management and Maintenance will know, Third Party Certification is when a company is independently and routinely assessed by a Certification Body.
These Certification Bodies are UKAS Accredited, which means their assessors have been appropriately checked by the Government’s sole approved body, confirming they are skilled to fulfil these assessments and determine competency.
A lot of work is performed ‘behind the scenes’ in the fire safety industry to ensure these schemes remain relevant and demonstrate the best levels of quality a company can adhere to. This offers a far higher level of reassurance that you are using competent providers when awarding contracts for your building.
Current safety climate
The Grenfell Tower Fire and other recent major fires have highlighted substantial failures in the elimination or reduction and ongoing management of fire risk through fire safety legislation responsibilities.
In the subsequent report, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt discussed “reducing building risk so far as is reasonably practicable.” Following this, premises management should also “ensure that there is a resident engagement strategy and that residents receive information on fire safety in an accessible manner.” This will reassure residents they remain safe in their homes.
BAFE and the extended competency industry believe that specifying appropriate Third Party Certification for your fire safety requirements is a reasonable and practicable action to fulfil your obligations. This action, if specified (and checked that the certification is suitable and valid), will act as quality evidence that the premises management acted with due diligence.
Recording these actions will also be important moving forward. This has been expressed as the “golden thread” of information that would be compulsory to handover to any new premises manager when a building changes hands. It will also be an important reference required in any event of fire to check all measures were taken to mitigate this risk as best as possible.
Competency, and defining that competency, has been the ongoing topic of discussion for some time now – with recent fires only raising its relevance. BAFE believe in UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification as a quality measure of competence. It is argued you wouldn’t use an unregistered gas engineer, so why would you take the risk with your fire safety requirements?
These are trying times, and financial/staff resources will be difficult over the next few months. However, it is strongly recommended you do not take risks with your fire safety in the exercise of making savings.
Do the right thing and specify the right provider for the tasks required, and be content with your responsible decisions.
Don’t just specify, verify
When sourcing help for your fire safety requirements, make sure you specify competent fire safety providers and verify their Third Party Certification is appropriate and valid for the work required. Visit www.bafe.org.uk for more information.
BAFE is the independent registration body for third party certified fire protection companies across the UK.