Following on from BM TRADA’s workshop at the Fire Sector Summit in October, which considered ‘Is now the time for a national fire safe register?’, BM TRADA is appealing for further opinion, in advance of the Parliamentary Seminar, ‘Understanding Fire Safety in Buildings’, on the 4 December.
With the responsibilities placed on building occupiers by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order having led to a renewed focus ensuring the competency of all those involved in the installation and maintenance of fire protection systems, BM TRADA feels the time is right to discuss the viability of a competent person scheme in the fire sector.
The Fire Sector Summit session, chaired by Mike Wood of the Passive Fire Protection Federation at BM TRADA’s request, considered all aspects of fire safety management in existing buildings, focusing on quality, competence and compliance and discussed the need and potential benefits of such a scheme before looking at options for its structure, management and use.
Highlighting widespread problems with installations in buildings and poor education and awareness along the decision-making chain during construction and refurbishment, there was unequivocal support for the creation of a National Fire Safe Register.
Peter Gannaway of the National Social Housing Fire Strategy Group said:
“Looking from the consumer’s point of view, a Fire Safe Register would be good. We often don’t have the in-house expertise to decide if an installation is correct,we would welcome a system that would give assurance of competence.”
But how would such a scheme be structured and managed? BM TRADA’s Ross Newman explained how the Gas Safe Register works, suggesting this as a suitable basis for developing a fire sector scheme:
“We know that, unlike the Gas Safe Register, a Fire Safe Register won’t become law. But it does create a nationally recognised brand, which stands for quality and competency,” he declared.
“You need one standard – a UK standard – and currently there isn’t one standard. There must be clear requirements so that others will be able to buy in.”
Dave Sibert of the Fire Brigades Union and Fire Sector Federation Technical Guidance Workstream suggested that, since a number of third party certification schemes already exist in the fire sector, the scheme could be structured more like the Water Safe scheme, which brings together contractors from seven existing schemes across the UK.
While there was much debate about who would be able to register on the scheme and the level of competence they should demonstrate, it was suggested that an umbrella listing could be supplied from the UKAS-accredited certification bodies.
The management and promotion of the scheme was also discussed. The Fire Sector Federation was put forward as ideal to take on this umbrella role, since it represents organisations from across the fire sector and thus will be able to promote the scheme more widely.
Graham Ellicott of the Fire Industry Association and Wilf Butcher of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) noted that interest and awareness was growing in both the active and passive fire protection sectors, but recognised more needed to be done.
Mr Butcher declared:
“To get where we need to go, we have to up our game in education. Education creates awareness and awareness builds demand,”
Summing up the outcomes from the Workshop, Mike Wood declared:
“So do we need to do it? Absolutely yes. It looks like this is perfect and well suited for the Fire Sector Federation to take an umbrella role. There are key issues for the fire sector to come to terms with, in particular, what sort of level do we set this at; and also to accept that it’s important to promote through marketing and to educate and raise awareness.”
The lively debate brought together representatives from across the sector including end-users in housing and education; certification bodies; insurers; the fire service; and fire sector organisations including the Fire Industry Association, Association for Specialist Fire Protection, and Fire Protection Association.
But what do you think? Register your opinion in this important debate by taking part in the BM TRADA survey here.
The outcomes from the workshop and your views from BM TRADA’s survey will be reported and discussed at ‘Understanding Fire Safety in Buildings’, a Parliamentary Seminar, on 4 December.
The seminar – organised by the ASFP, with support from the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group and the Fire Sector Federation – will consider issues that affect fire safety within the modern built environment and investigate how to ensure that appropriate fire protection is designed, specified, installed and maintained throughout the life of a building. For further information or to book online visit: www.sequenceofevents.co.uk/events/understanding-fire-safety-in-buildings/