Fire safety decision-makers 'need guidance'
The ‘think-tank’ – which included three MPs – highlighted the need for more robust information which could also act as a building management tool to help bring clarity to the risk process.
The group was brought together by Exova Warrington fire in Westminster to debate the issue: Is it Time for Certification of Buildings? It included Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson, MP and joint chair of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety Group Roger Williams and MP and secretary of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety Group, Jim Fitzpatrick.
Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, said: “I find the current hands-off approach to building regulations quite disturbing. We are not mandatory testing building systems and products in this country.
“As an industry we are fragmented and if we can create clearer guidance for the responsible person it would be much better and would provide a statutory defence in law should it be needed. We have to educate and get the responsible people on side to reduce the risk.”
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the ‘responsible person’ – that is the owner, manager or employer – must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.
Chris Hughes, certification manager Exova Warrington fire, said: “There is currently no requirement for fire safety compliance in the UK. Products are tested independently but then they are only as good as the person installing it. The end user relies on these people being good at what they do – how are they to find them?
MP Jim Fitzpatrick, secretary of the all-party Fire Safety Group, pointed out that the history of fire safety legislation is built on tragedies and questioned whether the fire risk assessment process in place is future-proof.
Mr Fitzpatrick said it was good to see the industry coming together to discuss and take hold of the situation, and said the all-party group was ready to help improve the profile and needs of the industry.
Brian Martin, building regulations lead (fire safety) for the Department for Communities and Local Government, suggested there is scope to improve the way people protect their buildings with additional guidance in ‘simple terms’ which can be understood by all concerned.
He was supported by Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson, MP, who said: “A voluntary scheme would be a step in the right direction, and the challenge must be that the people at the bottom of the chain must be brought upwards.”
The meeting agreed to explore ways of further developing voluntary guidance for the responsible person which could be developed as a form of building management guidance for the longer term.
The panel also included: Tim Humphreys, property policy lead, Association of British Insurers; Wilf Butcher, chief executive, Association of Specialist Fire Protection; Jonathan Herrick, enforcement lead, Chief Fire Officers’ Association; Martin Taylor, director, Local Authority Building Control; Mike Wood, chairman Fire Safety Development Group and head of fire protection, Pilkington UK (Glass & Glazing Design).