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Manufacturers' viewpoint - January 2018

16 November 2017

Ian Moore talks about the steps the Fire Industry Association (FIA) is taking to raise the bar in competency across the sector.

COMPETENCY IS a word that’s coming up in every context post-Grenfell but nobody has actually defined competency. It’s a subjective topic, as what I think defines a competent person you may not. For example, risk assessors maybe competent risk assessors but have they ever carried one out on an oil rig, road tunnel, cathedral or a school? You can never be fully competent in every single subject or criteria – this would no nearly impossible to achieve.

When I lobby ministers on behalf of the FIA we talk about the level of competency, in other words separating skill sets such as risk assessment, install or commissioning. We need to set a bar for competency and from 1 January the FIA has Awarding Organisation (AO) status, which means the training we deliver now provides a formal qualification. We offer four separate courses, which focus on design, installation, commissioning and maintenance and all of these include a pre-course on environmental health and safety. At the end of the process you will be qualified in that subject area. 

This is an important step for many reasons as it now sets a minimum bar that we can quote to people in regard to competency. It enables me to quote to politicians that FIA now offers a minimum level of qualifications in these areas and we can make a stab at saying what competency feels like. Previously, this has been an assumption as there was nothing that has been set to say this person is or isn’t competent. 

Now that is not to say this is the end of the matter, but it is a starting point. It helps FIA to put a marker in the ground to say this is the minimum level. We will eventually broaden this into additional areas, which will include portable extinguishers, gaseous extinguishers and watermist. This will be an important step to ensure we point to an absolute minimum level of competency in each discipline. 

New chairman

We also welcomed a new chairman at our AGM and Lunch, which was held at the Connaught Rooms London in November. We were delighted to be joined by 300 guests for the lunch, which has no become a much-anticipated fixture on the calendar.

The new chairman, Derek Gotts, takes the baton from Martin Harvey, who served as Chairman for 10 years.  For Martin’s long years of service, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Martin was elected to post at the very first FIA AGM and under his chairmanship and guidance we have seen the FIA grow significantly in terms of the number of members, influence and credibility. We have added four new councils, bought our own premise, and become an awarding organisation. So, we are extremely grateful for his continued contributions over the years.

Martin steps aside for Derek Gotts who was previously chair of the FIA’s FIRESA (fire and rescue suppliers) Council and comes with a wealth of experience from his many years working within the fire industry.

Market Conditions Survey

The FIA has also released the results of the Market Conditions Survey, Wave 9. This survey is a snapshot of the current trends within the fire industry nationwide. Each Wave is conducted every 6 months. Wave 9 reveals the impact of the changes in the landscape within the last 6 months, the trends within the market, as well as other emerging and continuing issues.

The major theme that appears throughout the report is that of Grenfell Tower, which was one of the largest tragedies in UK history. The report shows a spike in enquiries post-Grenfell, probably due to an increase of interest in protecting buildings and people from fires following the event. However, while there does seem to be an increase in enquiries, there are still some concerns being raised about competence of those working within fire protection.

Ian Moore is managing director of the Fire Industry Association. For more information, visit www.fia.uk.com