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BAFE emphasises importance of continued fire safety legislation enforcement as Government invokes ‘Lockdown 2’ across England
10 November 2020
IN THE wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Saturday 31 October that new lockdown measures would be introduced across England from Thursday 5 November, BAFE has moved swiftly to emphasise the fact that fire safety legislation across the whole of the UK continues to be enforced and should be upheld despite the current situation.
Published following the Prime Minister’s announcement, initial Government guidance in relation to people going to work states: “To help contain the virus, everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so (for instance, those individuals who work in the Critical National Infrastructure, construction or manufacturing sectors), they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace. This is essential for keeping the country operating and supporting vital sectors and employers.”
BAFE fully recognises that there’s different legislation regarding COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but will be making any Scheme-related guidance applicable to all parts of the UK as far as possible.
Earlier this year, BAFE reported that Ian Moore (CEO of the Fire Industry Association) had been informed by James Brokenshire (Minister of State for Security at the Home Office) as follows: “Security and fire safety personnel can play a vital role at this time of national challenge. People working in these sectors who are essential to national infrastructure are ‘key workers’ for the purposes of the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.”
BAFE-registered companies should continue to keep contact with their clients to aid in their fire safety obligations. It’s suggested that this is an ideal time to gain access to buildings (if possible) while there are minimal people on a given site to work on or otherwise maintain systems and provisions. If a building isn’t accessible during this new lockdown period, BAFE advises that clients should be contacted in a bid to reschedule required fire safety work as soon as possible.
Fire safety obligations
In guidance issued back in mid-March, Chris Auger (director of Schemes at BAFE) commented: “If a client is not permitting access to a given site due to Coronavirus precautions, please make sure you explain that this is their decision to not allow you to complete this work. It’s the role of the premises management (ie the ‘Responsible Person’/duty holder) to ensure they fulfil their fire safety obligations.”
Auger also stated: “Advise them of any risk and, if they still don’t grant you access to the site, document this communication. This will provide evidence that you’ve acted responsibly with your client(s). If you’re allowed access to site, please stay safe and follow appropriate Coronavirus guidance to ensure that you’re not unnecessarily increasing the risk posed to anyone on the premises or, indeed. yourself.”
Stephen Adams, CEO at BAFE, has observed: “The resilience of the fire safety industry this year has demonstrated an excellent response to the Coronavirus pandemic by clients and solution providers alike. BAFE-registered companies continue to work in a safe manner and should carry on communicating with their customers regarding fire safety responsibilities. This is not an easy time for any business, but fire safety must not be overlooked as this is an issue of life safety and property protection.”
Fire protection companies seeking certification or existing registered companies that have scheduled certification reviews should contact their certification bodies to ascertain their working arrangements over this lockdown period.
Importantly, Chris Auger has issued detailed guidance regarding the November lockdown and other UK restrictions, duly outlining how this affects third party certification assessment, fire extinguisher technician assessment and the all-important examinations.
For their part, certification bodies will still be required to assess competence. BAFE-registered companies are “strongly advised” to contact their certification body for their current policy. Further evidence of competency records and procedures may be requested, along with assurances that the on-site/witness audit can be completed at the earliest possible opportunity once restrictions have been lifted (subject to local/regional restrictions, of course).
Companies applying for assessment, or who are currently in the process of being assessed, should also contact their certification body for their policies.
Auger went on to explain: “BAFE will endeavour to be flexible and reasonable about respective Schemes’ requirements for continuity of third party certification/BAFE registration where companies can demonstrate that they’ve taken all of the steps possible to comply with their certification body’s advice and procedures.”
Where fire extinguisher technician assessments are currently booked, these can still take place subject to the assessment being conducted outside and where suitable safety measures are in place in order to protect both the technician and the BAFE assessor.
Where assessments must be cancelled, a revised assessment date must be agreed between the technician/registered company and the BAFE assessor before the end of the current lockdown period (ie Wednesday 2 December).
“For clarity,” continued Auger, “the assessment itself doesn’t have to take place during this period, but arrangements must be made for the assessment to take place preferably before the end of 2020. Where assessments have not yet been booked, technicians should continue to liaise with their designated BAFE assessor to arrange a suitable time for the assessment to take place after the current lockdown conditions have eased. This will be subject to local or regional restrictions.”
Auger asserts that BAFE has “considered the practicalities” of requesting and insisting on receiving asbestos awareness and Health and Safety training during this latest lockdown period and agreed that, if online training cannot be accessed, then a concession will be granted until 31 December this year when BAFE will review the situation.
Auger observed: “Examination refreshers should be maintained wherever possible. BAFE has written to the chair of FSH/02 to request an amendment, but any change could take up to 18 months to implement. Therefore, BAFE will accept verifiable online refreshers subject to details of course content and pass criteria (where the minimum is 75%). Each candidate must receive a certificate showing that they’ve passed. Online refresher certificates will be accepted initially up to 31 January 2021, subject to UK Government lockdown restrictions.”
Refreshers that were due on or before the commencement of the original official lockdown (ie Monday 23 March this year) will be expected to have a current certificate. For those fire extinguisher technicians whose certificates were due to expire on or before Tuesday 5 May this year (ie six months prior to the current lockdown restrictions being implemented), and who’ve not booked a refresher, they will be expected to sit the full examination.
Technicians who had their refresher examination booked between Thursday 5 November and Wednesday 2 December will be given until Thursday 31 December to book another course/examination, but this must take place before the final day of January next year.
Auger concluded: “Fire extinguisher technicians whose examination or refresher is due this month will be expected to book their course in the normal way, subject to any further Government-imposed restrictions. All examinations and refreshers will be expected to be current as of Friday 1 January 2021. In this latest Coronavirus situation, BAFE will continue to monitor the situation with trainers and certification bodies alike.”
*Interested parties should contact the BAFE offices via e-mail at email@example.com if they require further clarification in any of the information outlined in this latest update