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Is your fire contractor is competent?

09 October 2018

JUST BECAUSE a person is competent in their area of expertise doesn’t mean they will be in other areas, however closely related they are.

This was the key theme of the breakfast briefing on the opening day of Fire Safety North in Eventcity, Manchester. Speaker Chris Auger – schemes manager with BAFE – used the thought-provoking example of a dentist and a heart surgeon, asking the delegates: “Would you hire the former to carry out a open heart surgery on you?”

He continued: “While both are competent medical professionals with lots of experience, they are not trained in the same area of expertise. So, why do so many people use a fire-alarm contractor to service their fire extinguishers? OK, they might be competent to do both but how do you know?”

Chris went on to remind delegates that under provision 13(3)(b) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person must nominate competent persons. “I would add,” he said, “that the responsible person must also know what competence is and ensure that it has been independently verified.”

He went on to explain that all BAFE schemes are run through third-party certification bodies: “We adhere to the BSI definition of standards, which is that they are the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organisations they represent.” BAFE, he reminded delegates, is an independent register of quality fire-safety service providers, certificated to ensure competence and service excellence to help duty-holders meet fire-safety obligations.

Chris also cited a Home Office report from a few years ago, on quality assurance of fire-protection equipment installation, which talks about the importance of third-party certification and independent verification – both in terms of installation and equipment. “You need to be sure that the goods and services you purchase are fit for purpose,” he emphasised.

Returning to the dentist/heart surgeon analogy, he concluded: “Both surgery and fire are life-threatening situations, so would you value one higher than the other when sourcing your provider? Remember – surgery really only affects you but fire can potentially affect many people.”