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Government announces 'biggest changes to building safety in a generation' 03/04/2020

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has announced new measures to reform the building safety system with the biggest changes in a generation to ensure residents are safe in their homes.

The measures, announced ton on 2 April 2020, include mandatory sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall.

The government’s construction expert, David Hancock, has also been appointed to review the progress of removing unsafe ACM claddings from buildings.

The reforms are designed to incentivise compliance and to better enable the use of enforcement powers and sanctions, including prosecution where the rules are not followed. 

The Housing Secretary will hold a roundtable with mortgage lenders to work on an agreed approach to mortgage valuations for properties in buildings under 18 metres tall, providing certainty for owners affected by vital building safety work.

Jenrick said: "The government is bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation.

"We have made a major step towards this by publishing our response to the Building a Safer Future consultation. This new regime will put residents’ safety at its heart, and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1 billion fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the Budget.

"We are also announcing that the housing industry is designing a website so lenders and leaseholders can access the information needed to proceed with sales and re-mortgaging, and the government stands ready to help to ensure this work is completed at pace.

"Building safety is a priority and the government is supporting industry in ensuring homes are safe at this difficult time."

The measures build on recent announcements including:

  • providing £1 billion in 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high-rise buildings. This is in addition to the £600 million already available remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding
  • naming building owners who have been slow to act in removing unsafe ACM cladding
  • the introduction of the Fire Safety Bill, which took us one step further in delivering the recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry’s Phase One report

The latest non-ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding testing results have also been published and show that none of the materials, including high-pressure laminate (HPL) and timber cladding, behaved in the same way as ACM.

The government is making it clear that any unsafe materials should be removed from buildings quickly. External wall systems on high-rise buildings using Class C or D HPL panels are unsafe and should be removed as they do not comply with building regulations.

The government says it recognises the challenges presented to the building industry by COVID-19. The work to remove unsafe cladding from buildings is critical to public safety and so remains a top priority.

The government is supporting building owners, managers and residents to ensure remediation work continues where it is safe to do so. The government has also made clear that vital maintenance and repair work can continue to take place in line with public health guidance.

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Third issue of SSAIB’s The Standard released 02/04/2020

The latest issue of SSAIB’s The Standard is being released with the April edition of Fire Safety Matters and the brand new Security Matters magazine, thanks to the continued partnership with FSM publishers Western Business Media Limited.

Due to the link-up – which is now in its third year, following the re-launch of the leading certification body for the fire and security industries’ annual news publication – all of SSAIB's registered firms will receive both magazines to their registered address free of charge, to give some much-needed reading material in these times of social distancing and self-isolation.

As expected, last year’s SSAIB 25 celebrations feature heavily in this edition. There is an insight into the many occasions that SSAIB and the industry celebrated SSAIB’s quarter-century of success, a centre-fold photo gallery showing just some of the highlights and a very special cover image featuring all of the SSAIB staff, auditors and board members – after all three aspects of the organisation met up for the very first time to commemorate SSAIB 25 last May.

It’s not all made up of retrospective content though, with Security systems scheme manager Frank Smith discussing his first year in his new role and his thoughts on the security industry as we enter the 2020s. Training manager Trevor Jenks also reveals how employers can counter-act the effects of the increasing skills gap across the industry by taking on apprentices and upskilling their staff.

Chief executive Alex Carmichael also returns with his A View from the Top column, while field operations manager David Roscoe doubles down with both the latest standards updates for both the UK and Republic of Ireland – in addition to questioning why very few Alarm Receiving Centres have moved to the latest European Standard.

Staffordshire-based ADB Alarms are the latest SSAIB registered firm to go Under the Spotlight, with sisters Samantha Bennett and Sarah Savigar discussing all aspects of their business, the industry and their attendance at the SSAIB 25/Women in Security Awards joint celebration back in September 2019.

SSAIB lead auditor Stephen Grieve summarises his involvement with the London Borough of Islington and their various surveillance camera systems – as well as describing the SSAIB’s certification process for the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Code of Practice.

BAFE chief executive Stephen Adams contemplates a new era of competency, following a decade that has seen it become a key area of focus with the fire industry, while the FIA also explain how they can help SSAIB’s security firms to become more competent on the fire side and achieve third-party certification.

As the official Installer Partner for IFSEC and FIREX, SSAIB also welcome IFSEC Global editor James Moore to consider the many reasons for attending industry exhibitions and how they can be hugely beneficial to your business.

The traditional scheme updates from relevant scheme managers are also included, alongside the latest SSAIB news and a focus on some of the exhibitions and events that SSAIB will be attending this year.

PR and communications executive - and editor of The Standard - Glen Maxwell commented: “SSAIB 25 features heavily in the coverage of this year’s magazine and rightly so. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg really and we’ve been able to put together a great mix of contributors for this latest issue.

“After producing a bumper edition of The Standard last year, we were delighted with how it turned out and – having been impressed by the size and overall look of the “bumper” edition – we decided to embrace the “bigger is better” philosophy and make that size the standard for The Standard going forward.

“That has allowed us to fit a lot more content into the magazine for 2020 and, following the fantastic feedback that both of the previous editions of The Standard we’ve had, I hope that this year’s effort is as well-received as its predecessors.”

The Standard will also be available to pick up at SSAIB’s regional meetings and all of the exhibitions that the UKAS-accredited certification body will be attending in the next 12 months. However, as a first for 2020, an online version of The Standard is also available at http://archives.westernbusinesspublishing.co.uk/fsm/digital-archive/issues/2020/ssaibthestandardissue3/index.html

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Garden fires 'a cause for concern' 03/04/2020

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service are warning residents not to light fires in their gardens during the coronavirus lock down.

In seven days, since March 23, firefighters attended more than 30 intentionally lit fires in gardens across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington and almost the same amount again of accidentally lit small fires. 

These fires relate to either controlled burnings, which may have caused a nuisance or concern or fires that may have been started intentionally but then got out of hand and needed to be extinguished by firefighters. 

Calls to this type of fire are rising daily and the number of such incidents is already well above average for this period.

The majority of these fires are believed to have been intentionally started and have gone on to waste vital Fire Service resources.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer Gus O’Rourke said "During these unprecedented times we need everyone to help us by staying as safe as possible.

“Since the start of the lock down situation we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of garden related fires we are attending and we just don’t need it. 

“We will always respond to emergency calls, but unnecessary fires such as these pull our firefighters away from other vital work and could expose them to the coronavirus.”

“All fires can easily get out of hand very quickly, especially grass fires, which can travel very quickly and change direction without warning.”

There are not any specific laws against burning rubbish in your garden or having a bonfire there, but there are several laws that deal with the nuisance that fires and bonfires can cause. 

Gus added: “I understand that people may want to keep busy and use this time to clear their gardens, and because recycling centres and garden waste collections are temporarily suspended they need to get rid of vegetation, but setting alight to it is not the answer.”

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Scheme protects businesses from cyber attack 03/04/2020

UK businesses can now reduce their risk of falling victim to a cyber attack through a newly streamlined process for the government-backed certification scheme for cyber security.

From 1st April, the IASME Consortium has taken over the delivery of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) Cyber Essentials scheme, which teaches businesses how to protect themselves from the most common cyber threats and reassure their customers that cyber security is taken seriously.

The scheme had previously been delivered through multiple accreditation bodies but, following a review, a single delivery partner was appointed to create a clear and consistent pathway for organisations to achieve Cyber Essentials status.

Cyber attackers often use relatively simple methods which exploit basic vulnerabilities, but through the scheme businesses can learn how to defend themselves by securing internet connections and devices, controlling access to data, and how to protect against malware.

Changes to the Cyber Essentials scheme include:

    • A newly simplified operating model and streamlined user experience
    • The introduction of a minimum criteria for Certification Bodies and Cyber Essentials assessors
    • The introduction of an expiry date on certificates

Since the scheme launch in 2014, the NCSC has helped to protect over 40,000 UK businesses from the most common cyber threats.

Anne W, head of commercial assurance services at the NCSC, said: "Cyber attacks come in varying shapes and sizes, but the vast majority are relatively simplistic and are the equivalent of a thief checking your car door to see if it’s unlocked.

"Our new partnership with the IASME Consortium strengthens the Cyber Essentials scheme, and I’d encourage UK businesses of any size to take part in order to protect themselves from the most common attacks."

The IASME Consortium was selected as the NCSC’s Cyber Essentials partner following a competitive tender process in 2019.

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Gin distilleries providing hand sanitisers for Met officers 02/04/2020

Gin distilleries and breweries are offering their services to ensure the Metropolitan Police Service's (MPS) supply of hand sanitiser does not dry up.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK has led to an increased demand across the country for hygiene products such as hand sanitiser, with the MPS also feeling the squeeze.

Hand sanitiser is a crucial item for officers and staff in the MPS, especially those on the frontline who are patrolling the streets of London, dealing with prisoners in custody and attending crime scenes. 

Planning ahead to ensure the MPS continues to have a sufficient supply of hand sanitiser, staff in the force’s Commercial Services department started to pursue alternative sources for the product.

Staff quickly identified the alcohol industry as being an alternative source for the provision of hand sanitisers.

The MPS immediately began talks with a range of gin distilleries and breweries, several being based in London, with many offering to supply hand sanitiser to the force.

After ensuring health and safety guidelines were met, and reaching an agreement with different Government bodies, the proposal was given the green light. All potential suppliers are producing and selling the hand sanitisers using the formulation provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), allowing the product to be made in a timely manner.

All of the analysis, research and exploratory discussions were carried out in under 72 hours by two placement students, under tutelage from leaders in Commercial Services. Within one week of starting discussions, the orders were placed. 

Distilleries and breweries helping the MPS are Portobello Road Gin (Notting Hill), 58 Gin Ltd (Haggerston) and Copper Rivet Distillery (Chatham). Other distilleries approached by the MPS are now in conversation with other forces and public bodies. 

As an added bonus, brewing company Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, is donating 6,000 litres of hand sanitiser free of charge to the MPS to help support its frontline officers and staff.

The MPS expects to receive its first delivery of the hand sanitisers at the start of April. 

Director of commercial services Mark Roberts said: “Hand sanitiser is an essential item for our officers and staff, especially those on the frontline. So I am extremely grateful to all of the suppliers who have agreed to work with us and provide us with this vital commodity, which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately save lives. 

“I’d also like to say a special thank you to Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, which is very kindly going to donate 6,000 litres of this critical product to us. 

“It shows the importance and necessity of everyone working together in these challenging times.”

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Grant scheme to support victims of terrorism 02/04/2020

Victims of terrorism will be offered more support including counselling and practical advice on finances and media intrusion, through a new fund announced by the Home Secretary.

Organisations will be able to bid for up to £500,000 this year, to provide advice and support to individuals and their families affected by a terrorist incident.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Victims of terror have suffered more than many of us can ever imagine, which is why I am determined to ensure they receive the support they need.

"This funding will allow groups to provide practical and emotional support to individuals as they attempt to work through these traumatic events."

The announcement is part of the Home Secretary’s efforts to improve support for victims of terrorism and follows the announcement in January of £500,000 increased funding for the Victims of Terrorism Unit and a commitment to carry out a comprehensive review of the support available.

Bidders to the fund must be able to provide specialist advice and support to individuals across England and Wales, based on professional judgement and an understanding of the unique needs of victims of terrorism.

In addition to statutory services, there are private and voluntary organisations that offer ongoing support to UK residents affected by terrorism at home or abroad. This new grant scheme will offer additional funding to those charities and organisations that apply successfully to the scheme to help support this important work.

This could include specialist advice and support on dealing with emotional distress, media intrusion, compensation and legal processes.

The competition will be launched in April and the grant will be advertised through Contract Finder.

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Remote workers exposing themselves to fire risk 02/04/2020

As huge numbers of people working from home adapt to a new working routine, many may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk due to unsafe electrical setups and practices, a charity is warning.

Research conducted by consumer safety charity Electrical Safety First has looked into the dangers to which a nation of newly remote workers may be unknowingly exposing themselves.

With increased use of electrical equipment in many homes such as work laptops, tablets, phones and heaters, a new survey by the charity has found more than two thirds of those currently working from home are using extension leads or adaptors with the electronic device they’re working on and 38 per cent of them have more appliances plugged into one than they usually would.

Worryingly, more than 1 in 3 are either unaware of the risks of overloading plug sockets or how to check whether they’re doing so. By using extension leads and adaptors to plug additional devices into a socket, there is a danger that they could be overloaded, creating a fire risk.  

Even more concerning is the 44 per cent of those currently working from home using extension leads or adapters as part of their setup who admit to ‘daisy-chaining’ them together. Daisy-chaining involves plugging one extension into another in order to reach further or plug more appliances in, and is advised against in all circumstances.

Another issue identified by the charity is bad behaviour in the bedroom, with more than half of those surveyed either often or sometimes placing an electrical item such as a laptop or phone on their bed whilst it is charging as part of their work-from-home setup. This can also create a fire risk due to the potential of the item overheating. Electrical items should only ever be left on hard, non-flammable surfaces unless switched off and not charging.

Electrical Safety First is recommending those working from home take advantage of the Charity’s Socket Overload Calculator to check they’re not plugging too many appliances in at once, and to pay extra attention to their electrical safety during their period of remote working.

Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, said: "With 70 per cent of those currently working from home doing so for the first time due to COVID-19, it’s unsurprising that not everyone will have had a chance to ensure their work stations are free from electrical hazards. 

Take a few minutes to make sure you’re not daisy-chaining extension leads or overloading your plug sockets and that you are charging your devices on hard, non-flammable surfaces. We should all pay extra attention to  electrical safety during our period of remote working. For more detail as well as some helpful tools, head to www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk ”

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COVID-19 'biggest-ever cyber security threat to hit businesses' 02/04/2020

The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing millions of employees to work from home. This means countless organisations are faced with a unique challenge: how to keep as many business-critical functions running as possible whilst maintaining adequate security.

Phishing attacks have risen an unprecedented 667 per cent in the UK compared to February, as malicious actors trick users via fake coronavirus alerts. Government statistics revealed that 75 per cent of large organisations were hacked last year, meaning this enhanced threat is all the more worrying.

James Stickland, CEO of authentication platform Veridium, highlights that COVID-19 is now posing the largest-ever cyber security threat of recent times. He believes it has shone a light on technology, forcing enterprises to innovate, however, some companies are placing their business at risk by taking shortcuts on security measures.

James Stickland commented: “What makes this situation so difficult are the timeframes. Where typical changes of this scale are planned, researched, deployed and tested over months and even years, the UK now has just weeks to overcome some very real problems. These circumstances, albeit challenging and worrying, indeed present a long term opportunity for businesses to reassess their security strategies. Many companies are facing increasing scrutiny over their identity verification requirements, particularly video conferencing tools which have exploded in popularity. At this current time, invoking business continuity must be prioritised – ensuring clients are serviced and secure authentication for remote employees is provided.”

Stickland continued: “Ensuring that remote workers don't fall foul of phishing attacks when resetting passwords will be crucial for employees working from home. There has been a 667 per cent increase in funded cyberattacks on passwords, which are already the weakest link in the security trail, being responsible for over 80 per cent of data breaches.

“Software based authentication that can be delivered remotely will be key to improving cybersecurity for home workers. Authentication measures that require passwords or PINs put pressure on already inundated or unavailable IT helpdesks through resets. More and more organisations are realising the benefits of taking a multi factor biometric approach to security, which can efficiently safeguard sensitive employee and customer data whilst future-proofing their business.”

Stickland concluded: “The way the world works will change after this – individuals and businesses will rethink their priorities. Flexible working will be more accepted, security will matter more, and relationships will matter more. In the same way it takes a cyber-breach to invest in improving security, this pandemic will make a number of businesses overhaul their remote working strategies. It will be very interesting to see how the business and security world will change.”

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EAPFP to collaborate with EuroFSA 01/04/2020

The European Association of Passive Fire Protection (EAPFP) has endorsed the aims of the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) following a successful meeting to discuss opportunities for co-operation.

 EAPFP representatives Joric Witlox (immediate past president) and Roy Weghorst met with EuroFSA chairman Elie van Strien and René Hagen on 27 February to investigate possible areas for collaboration.

EuroFSA is an independent alliance of fire professionals which exists to reduce risk from fire. It recognises that the majority of fire deaths and injuries happen in the home and impact upon the most vulnerable in society. Its goals are to:

  • Campaign for better regulation in areas that improve home fire safety at a national and European level;
  • Be an authority on fire risk, based on a strong statistical evidence base;
  • Focus on areas of greatest risk in the home and the people most vulnerable to accidental fires;
  • Support the fire service so it can be actively involved in reducing the risk from fire;
  • Develop and nurture a fire professional network that will be seen as an area of expertise by policy makers and practitioners.

The EAPFP also campaigns to raise the standard of fire safety in buildings, to enable building owners in Europe to obtain good and reliable passive fire protection products, which are properly installed so they deliver the declared fire safety performance.  Its key aims are: to help implement, influence and promote the use of European legislation and standards; and to inform, educate and promote the use of good and properly installed products.

Following the meeting, Mr Witlox said: “The EAPFP thoroughly endorses the mission and ambitions of EuroFSA and will do its utmost to support them. Both organisations campaign for improvements in fire safety regulation and to reduce risk from fire, as a result the EAPFP is pleased to offer its expertise in passive fire protection to help EuroFSA achieve its goals.”

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SSAIB CEO pledges to support registered firms 02/04/2020

With the Government directives and guidance brought into action last week, SSAIB has had to change certain aspects of its working practices, while also ensuring that it doesn’t impact negatively on its registered firms and the level of service that it provides to them.

With this in mind, the SSAIB's chief executive Alex Carmichael has published the following statement:

The SSAIB is fully aware of the uncertainty and worry that our firms will be facing at this difficult time, but we would like to remind each and every one of you that we are here to support you and we want to work together with you all - as we’re all in this together until a resolution to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found.

Therefore, I just want to provide you with an update as to what we are doing to keep our firms and our staff safe, while still being able to provide SSAIB certification and comply with our own continued requirements for United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accreditation at this difficult time.

Keeping Our Firms and Our Staff Safe

As of this week, we have implemented our business continuity plan and taken the decision to close the SSAIB office to ensure the safety and welfare of all our office staff. All members of staff have been issued with everything they need in order to work from home, so the ‘office’ will still be fully manned remotely - until such time as these latest Government restrictions are relaxed – and we will be doing all we can to ensure that there is minor interruption in service, during what is a big transition for us.

As you will all be aware, our auditors are out in the field day in, day out visiting you all for your initial or annual inspections. However, again, to avoid – or limit – the spread of this virus, we have grounded all our auditors and have started rolling out remote audits with the aim of having them fully up and running by Monday March 30.

This will allow us to carry on with our certification requirements to meet UKAS requirements, while ensuring that the health and wellbeing of our registered firms and our auditors is not compromised in any way. Our auditors are still here to help you and, if you are worried about your audit or are unsure as to what you need to have in place in order to be able to be audited remotely, please give us a call on 0191 296 3242 and we can pass a message on for them to get in touch with you to discuss your issues.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

We understand that this is a situation that none of us have ever found ourselves in before, so we will do our best to answer any queries you might have with regards to this pandemic.

We have a list of COVID-19 FAQs accessible via the Registered Firms’ portal of our website and these will continue to be updated as and when new information is released. Therefore, should you have an issue or question that is not covered already, please get in touch and not only will we try our best to answer it, we’ll also add to the list so that it can – potentially – help anyone else looking for the same answer(s) as well.

Of course, we are fully aware of the impact of COVID-19 on your jobs and livelihoods. Should you find that you are struggling to make a payment, through no fault of your own, please contact us as soon as possible – as it gives us the best chance of providing support to you. 

Working Together

This is a difficult time for all of us and all our planned changes to working practices has been overtaken by the speed of the Government announcements for home working. Only by working together can we get through this bad situation, so we thank you for your patience and understanding at this time. We will do everything in our power to continue providing a first-class third-party certification to you all, your positive comments to the SSAIB staff really do make all the difference.

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