Home>Fire>Risk Assessment>Speaking for the sector - January 2019

Speaking for the sector - January 2019

30 November 2018

The Fire Sector Federation provides an update on current activities as the Grenfell Inquiry and Building a Safer Future Review continues.

As the pace and complexity of both the Grenfell Inquiry and the Building a Safer Future Review expand so the Federation has itself sought to step up a gear. The Inquiry is now reaching the close of the first narrative stage of that terrible June night, and the Building a Safer Future Review is progressing from connecting recommendation to response and onwards towards future implementation.

The changes now afoot are considerable for any organisation to keep up with, let alone those like the Federation that really exist on the goodwill of members to capture and coordinate informed detailed input to ensure our voice is heard.

The Review has breathed life into the examination of Building Regulations Approved Document B, Fire Safety (AD B). For many years the Federation has actively campaigned for a root and branch review of AD B. A consultation on a clarification to AD B is underway, which aims in part to make the document easier to read and therefore understand.

The Federation naturally has responded to the clarification consultation as individual members and collectively to make the point that simplification is good but the full technical review needs to follow quickly. The FSF is  therefore encouraged by the Government announcement that a full blown review will take place and will start with a call for evidence in the Autumn.

The clarification consultation generated quite a bit of work. It has also brought back into focus issues from the Building a Safer Future Review on risk and complexity. It begs the question, as noted by the Federation, whether a stronger thread on risk and complexity should be at the heart of a future more focused regulatory guidance. Consequently, this issue of complex and high risk is something that the Federation will continue to work upon.

Likewise, the Federation has witnessed the growth in response to the advisory information to clients and owners from the building safety programme with mixed views. On the one hand the steady stream of advisory notes from the Expert Panel must help reassure those responsible that they are on the right track as they strive to ensure they are doing what is required to secure the fire safety of those using their buildings. Although the costs of implementing the advice can be high and causes a pause for clarification.

On the other hand, Federation members have questioned some advice which can be both seen as ‘sensible’ and at other times ‘ill formed’. The advice places pressure on owners to act resulting in plans for the total removal of cladding or the replacement of entrance doors, when in fact there are other options. For instance,  an acceptable height limit for cladding and adaptations to fire door furniture  would be technically appropriate. As recent events have shown clarity, the right technical input, competence and striking the right balance on fire safety is needed here.

It is good to see that industry itself, especially fire and construction, is pushing hard to improve its own approach to fire safety. Here a good example is the work coordinated by the Construction Industry Council on competency, which the Federation is part of through the Competency Steering Group. This group has brought together those who lead in design, engineering, control and enforcement, to work alongside the many who actually undertake the construction through assessment, products, procurement, installation and management.

Consequently many across the spectrum of our industry now find they are being asked to contribute to “raising the competency bar”.  As in any group, there are the occasional disappointments, like witnessing another group’s failure to recognise the contribution from a fire safety group simply because of a lack of insight into what they do. However, by being in the room there is a positive opportunity for the Federation to share knowledge and information to close these gaps. In this way, it can support the sustained cultural shift that Dame Judith Hackitt highlighted.

Hopefully one outcome of all this joint working will be to bring greater clarity to these important relationships and the importance of fire safety. The Federation is certainly working to that end!

For more information, visit www.firesectorfederation.co.uk