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Speaking for the sector - January 2018

16 November 2017

Fire Sector Federation (FSF) chair Paul Fuller shares his views on how the Building Regulations need to change and the impact being felt across the sector following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

THIS HAS been an unprecedented time for the fire sector as a whole in relation to the effects felt by Grenfell. We now must think much more carefully about how we bring together all of the various elements of the sector. I’m encouraged by the announcement of a review to the Building Regulations, which the FSF has long called for. I’m equally encouraged by the possibility of clear outcomes being published from the Grenfell inquiry. 

While the tragedy provided a seminal moment in our history, this is not something that is new to the fire sector in terms of how we mange those issues and bring the learnings together. I’m pleased that the FSF has stepped-up working with others to try and move some of these issues forwards. The evidence we have given to the Inquiry has been carefully crafted by a wide-range of different experts. 

Moving beyond the immediacy of Grenfell, we also need to think about the future of the sector and how we can continue to develop the fire safety of our built environment. The Federation would like to see a more consistent approach to the Building Regulations. At the moment the Building Regulations, planning, British Standard 9999 and Approved Document B are all different routes to the completion of a building. Depending what it is that you want to achieve will dictate what piece of legislation you prefer. That makes the lives of the fire sector and the fire and rescue service quite difficult.

FSF would like to see much more emphasis placed on the demonstrable competencies of approved inspectors. Personally, I don’t like desktop reviews as I think that someone needs to get a feel for a building to understand its safety. Somehow these disparate views and inconsistencies need to be brought together and to aid with this FSF will be lobbying for the creation of a National Fire Safety Agency, which will be able to monitor standards of fire safety throughout our built environment. 

Purpose of the Federation

FSF was created several years ago following a ministerial review called Fire Futures and it was widely accepted that there was a clear knowledge gap between government and the wider fire sector. The Federation includes members who are builders, architects, passive fire protection experts, engineers and insurers and aims to bring together all of their views and expertise in regards to the fire sector. By its nature there is sometimes friction as members come from differing mindsets. I believe the FSF has successfully created a unified voice for the wider sector that speaks to government, rather than just a fire and rescue perspective. 

Coming back to the topic of building codes, one of the key belief of the FSF is that we are not convinced that regulations are keeping pace with the capabilities and design aspirations of the rest of the industry. The Federation is trying to bring these aspirations to the forefront and see them acknowledged and integrated with the Building Regulations. Where people think of a fire defense scheme as part of an innovative building, instead of fitting that into an outdated framework we can try and bring the two things much closer together and ultimately make our buildings and their occupants far safer. 

Paul Fuller is chair of the Fire Sector Federation and chief fire officer at Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. For more information, visit www.firesectorfederation.co.uk