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Speaking for the sector - June 2018

22 May 2018

Fire Sector Federation (FSF) President Brian Robinson welcomes the recommendations from Hackitt Review and outlines some key concerns.

THE FIRE Sector Federation welcomes the completion of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and its recommendations for a much needed change in the culture and regulatory environment relating to construction. It recognises the direction is consistent with the UK’s approach to general health and safety.

The creation of a new regulatory framework and a Joint Competent Authority (JCA) to oversee the management of safety risks throughout the life of a building is long overdue and we are pleased to see recognition of the need for defined responsibilities and competencies throughout the whole process from planning to building occupation. 

The Federation welcomes the introduction of gateways at each stage of the sign off process during construction and the ability for the JCA to prevent building occupation if the duty holder cannot demonstrate what they have done to ensure fire safety.

We also welcome the approach to introduce a duty holder, who would be legally accountable for fire safety throughout the life of a building. However we believe that competency standards must be clearly defined for all involved in designing, building and managing high risk buildings. This must include contractors, sub-contractors and facility managers as well as members of professional institutions. We also believe that any competence framework would benefit from mandatory third party accreditation.

Review concerns

The FSF’s concerns mainly relate to how the recommendations will be implemented and what support and direction will be available in the interim period. The FSF’s view is that the recommendations offer no solutions in the short term or any clear method for implementation.

The Federation also believes that the new regulatory framework should be applied to the full range of buildings. It is concerned that if regulation is to be banded, with more stringent requirements being placed on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs) careful consideration must be given to how such buildings are defined and their risk determined. It is also concerned that the proposals do not go far enough to ensure the fitness for purpose of designs, materials, products and building processes. 

While the report gives us a direction of travel, it is now up to the Government to drive the recommendations forward, particularly those on regulation and testing, and to set and enforce high standards. Dame Judith has formulated a long term plan which will take time to achieve. The lack of an interim arrangement and the need for substantial further work does not give confidence in an immediate or long term outcome, which will provide residents with the reassurance they need. 

While we welcome the recognition that the industry should take responsibility for developing suitable guidance and standards, the challenge is not for the construction sector alone. We believe that it is vital for the wider fire sector to be significantly involved in any arrangements and will collaborate widely to help develop the far-reaching solutions required to solve this highly complex problem

The Fire Sector Federation welcomes the recommendations and is pleased to see greater focus on the recognition of responsibilities and control of the fire safety building performance through the whole process from planning to building occupation and throughout the life of a building. It is a start but there is a long way to go and fading memories of the tragedy which caused this review must not be allowed to deflect the outcome.

Brian Robinson is president of the Fire Sector Federation. For more information, visit www.firesectorfederations.co.uk