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Fire Sector Federation updates on pathway to competency for risk assessors

02 October 2023

THE FIRE Sector Federation has just issued a timely update on the pathway to competency for fire risk assessors. This development follows on from the Fire Risk Assessors Working Group having produced the Benchmark Standard, which is itself supported by the Federation.

We are now entering yet another important improvement phase for building safety. Dame Judith Hackitt’s proposals, captured after her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety unearthed the inadequate landscape in existence prior to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, have themselves precipitated many actions. These included encouraging industry to self-motivate its own progress. This is something that has resonated strongly with fire risk assessors.

The baseline controls for fire risk assessment stretch back for a decade pre-Grenfell, having been set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Government has progressively sought to improve the building safety landscape, including the Fire Safety Order, with further requirements under the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.

Likewise industry, by virtue of working together, has driven – and continues to drive – improvement. In the critical area of fire risk assessments, the focus is on standards and competency starting by reasserting the foundation principle that fire risk assessor competency should have independent third party accreditation attached to it for both companies and individuals offering such services.

The industry’s fire risk assessor sector immediately recognised that being able to demonstrate competency would become a fundamental requirement across all built environment sectors and, as a result, decided on collectively and continuously working to deliver a comprehensive programme of fire risk assessor competency standards designed to enhance public fire safety.

Based within the internationally acknowledged context of accredited conformity assessment, fire risk assessor sector members of the Fire Sector Federation created an Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors. As reported at the time by Fire Safety Matters, the document details specific competency requirements for fire risk assessors to progressively raising competency across three tiers and, in turn, meet more and more complex risks.

Three tiers

Set to be used within the United Kingdom Accreditation Service’s accredited schemes, the Benchmark Standard’s three tiers aim to support end users, including ‘Responsible Persons’, in finding a suitable risk assessor for their needs, while also providing a career pathway for professional development.

The Federation members creating the Benchmark Standard also recognised the importance of facilitating transitional arrangements for experienced workers holding existing appropriate occupational qualifications and experience. That being so, the Benchmark Standard’s design is fully adaptable to assist this transition given that there are many existing Fire Safety Order-proficient fire risk assessment processes to incorporate.

In the near future the Benchmark Standard will begin development as a British Standard, which is destined to become part of the BS 8670 Built Environment: Core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks.

All of this is highly relevant given that sub-section 156 (4) of the Building Safety Act will eventually mandate that a legal duty is placed on ‘Responsible Persons’ not to appoint any individual to assist them in making or reviewing a fire risk assessment under the Fire Safety Order unless that individual is competent (and proven to be so). Working on whatever premises this law applies to, fire risk assessors will then need to meet whatever assured conformity statement of competency is specified.

Clearer route

The route to demonstrating competency as a fire risk assessor is therefore much clearer. Individuals will have to show conformity to regulated standards. Working with others, the Fire Risk Assessors Working Group encourages everyone with an interest in this issue to engage now.

Those wishing to learn more about fire risk assessments should visit the Fire Sector Federation’s dedicated web page at  https://www.firesectorfederation.co.uk/fire-risk-assessment/, which lists fire risk assessor schemes with contact details. Alternatively, contact the Federation direct via e-mail at executive@firesectorfederation.co.uk