Fire Safety and contractor competence

BAFE, the independent register of quality fire safety service providers, comments on the recent report released post Grenfell and how checking contractor competence is a simple, but important step to help reduce risk within a building

With the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety being released, an even stronger focus of responsibility will be aimed at the appointed responsible person/duty holder of buildings. This will be especially focused on high rise buildings and we await further clarification on what else this will expand out to.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s report discussed the term ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ (SFAIRP) as a regulatory exercise for duty holders ‘to exercise their judgement with making the safety case to the regulator’. The report continues to state: “The presumption is always on the duty holder to manage safety and reduce the risk. This can be challenging as it requires the exercise of reasonable judgement by both the duty holder and regulator.”

Responsible people/duty holders must reduce risk, especially regarding fire safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This however is nothing new, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explain fire safety legislation stating: “Employers (and/or building owners or occupiers) must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. This shares the same approach as health and safety risk assessments and can be carried out either as part of an overall risk assessment or as a separate exercise. Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.”

With this, BAFE strongly believe that checking that your chosen contractors or providers are third party certificated is reasonably practicable to ensure adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety report failed to take the opportunity to endorse the value of third party certificated competence for service providers at this stage. The government however does endorse third party certification in their guidance documents which encourage the use of these providers as they will have demonstrated their competency to fulfil the required task.

Fire safety risk assessment Government Guidance states: “Third party certification schemes for fire protection products and related services are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products may lack. This does not mean goods and services that are not third party approved are less reliable, but there is no obvious way in which this can be demonstrated. Third party quality assurance can offer comfort, both as a means of satisfying you that goods and services you have purchased are fit for purpose, and as a means of demonstrating that you have complied with the law.”

In the report there was a stated requirement for proposals from the construction and fire industries within one year, for a body to oversee the ‘delivery of competent people’ and BAFE will work with all relevant parties to deliver this. This ‘delivery of competent people’ has been present within the fire industry for some time now, but in the complete absence of any mandatory requirements to demonstrate competency, BAFE strongly believes that third party certification, for both companies and individuals, is the best measure of this. We are committed to working with the fire industry and the wider construction industry to develop comprehensive measures to support the need for enhancing skills. We support this activity across the UK.

This, therefore, comes down to education, what exactly is third party certification and does the end user/public understand this?

Stephen Adams, BAFE chief executive, commented: “It is an ongoing challenge to inform the public about the importance of third party certification and what this means in practice. Companies work meticulously to gain this level of independent certification to prove their competency. This results in a standard that the end user/specifier can easily identify to show they are using the right people to fulfil a specific requirement. The duty holder should not have to know every minute detail of the relevant codes of practice and standards for the fire safety provisions they require, but they should have access to categorically know if the company they choose does (and keeps this level of knowledge and competency up to date). Clear and reliable evidence of this is third party certification.”

The method to check if a contractor is third party certificated is extremely simple as the BAFE register, has an online directory where you can confirm this. If your chosen contractor states they are BAFE registered for example, what area of fire safety are they third party certificated to provide? This can be easily checked on the BAFE website which clearly states exactly what they have been independently assessed in to prove their competency for a specific service.

The simple checking process to determine the correct third party certification, which takes less than five minutes to complete, will demonstrate you have taken reasonably practicable positive steps to ensure your chosen contractor is competent for the works you require.

On the day the Hackitt review interim report was released (18/12/17), Lord Porter, Local Government Association chairman, said: “What happened at Grenfell Tower can never be allowed to happen again and no-one should have to live in fear about their safety, be that in the buildings they live in, work in or visit.”

This referred to the materials being used on high rise blocks but should also apply to the fire risk assessment, all fire safety provisions and systems installed (and regularly maintained) in the interest of life safety. Many people take this for granted, and believe these are all correct and operational working in the background, as discovered in a recent study by Eaton. In their survey of 2,000 UK based respondents, 54 per cent of them admitted that they are not concerned that the building is not adequately protected against fires triggered by electrical faults. This complacency may result in a heightened threat to life in the event of a fire.

Third party certification has never been more important than it is now when sourcing fire safety work in today’s climate. The focus on getting this right to reduce the risk, especially for multiple occupancy and high risk premises, is paramount. Using independently assessed companies to ensure their competency can help meet these fire safety obligations.

About BAFE
BAFE is the independent register of quality fire safety service providers across the UK. All companies that appear on the BAFE Fire Safety Register are certificated in specific areas of fire safety to ensure quality and competence to help meet your obligations. BAFE develops third party certification schemes to support quality standards within specific services in the fire safety industry. This third party certification (assessed via UKAS accredited Certification Bodies) independently acknowledges a company’s competency to provide specific fire protection services.

A completely independent organisation therefore resulting in a thoroughly unbiased party to help competent companies and people in need of fire protection services find each other. There are registered companies throughout the UK spanning from large nationals and smaller regional businesses who have all achieved the same high quality standards.

Further Information: 

www.bafe.org.uk

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