The Fire Industry Working together to 'Get our house in order'
The Council is a voluntary group of fire industry organisations, chaired by Iain Cox representing the Chief Fire Officers Association, with Martin Duggan of the FIA supporting in the role of acting secretary.
Made up of a broad group of relevant stakeholders*, the Council formed to define what a competent fire risk assessor is. The Competency Council members have worked hard to develop the much needed ‘benchmark for competency’ for fire risk assessors; in December 2011 it published a 21-page Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors.
This document is available in the Responsible Persons area of the FIA website.
The aim is that the criteria will be used by professional organisations and Third Party Certification bodies who register or certificate fire risk assessors as well as by commercial companies providing fire risk assessment services.
Fire safety legislation requires that for most premises, except private dwellings, a fire risk assessment must be carried out to determine the risks to people from fire. The legislation also requires that suitable measures are taken to ensure the safety of people from fire. The appropriate fire precautions are determined by the fire risk assessment.
There is no legislative requirement for the fire risk assessment to be carried out by a competent person. This is to avoid an implication that every duty holder under the legislation needs to employ the services of a fire safety specialist such as a consultant, to carry out their fire risk assessment.
For small, simple premises, it is often the duty holder that carries out the fire risk assessment. Arguably, in these premises, the duty holder is the best person to do so because of their intimate knowledge of the premises and the activities therein. Guidance to support those wishing to carry out the fire risk assessment themselves has been made available on the DCLG website – http://www.communities.gov.uk
However, for many premises, the duty holder seeks the services of an external consultant – often known as ‘a fire risk assessor’. In the case of larger, more complex or high risk premises, this is often appropriate as the task might be beyond the ability of the duty holder.
Some members of the business community have suggested that it would be helpful for those who want to use the services of a commercial fire risk assessor to be able to access information on those with an appropriate level of competency in fire risk assessment to help them comply with the legislation.
There has also been growing concern regarding the competence of those who provide these fire risk assessments on a commercial basis (i.e. for a fee).
Data from the English Fire and Rescue Service suggests that the main ‘compliance failure’ leading to enforcement action is a failure by duty holders to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. This is coupled with the emergence of inadequate fire risk assessments for premises that have suffered multiple fatality fires.
It was as a result of these concerns that the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council emerged from the fire sector with the encouragement of Government. Its objective has been to establish agreed, industry-wide criteria against which the competence of a fire risk assessor can be judged.
There are a number of ‘Registers’, ‘Qualifications’ and Third Party Certification schemes for individuals as well as numerous training courses. Previously there was no effective way of comparing them or assessing their quality.
It is anticipated that the fire industry will use this Competency Criteria document to develop Third Party Certification schemes and appropriate training courses. Since the document’s release in December last year, there has already been interest in using the document as a syllabus guide for organisations that offer fire risk assessment training providers.
Martin Duggan of the FIA said: “We are all delighted that the Competency Criteria has finally been published.”
With the Warrington Certification FRAC scheme already available and the BAFE SP205 scheme anticipated to be available by May 2012, the Fire Risk Assessment sector is ‘getting its house in order’ to offer the public a route to establish independent proof of competency therefore, providing comfort that they can select a competent Fire Risk Assessor.
It is very unlikely that Third Party Certification of this nature will become mandatory under legislation. The Government does however, acknowledge the benefits to duty holders of Third Party Certification of fire protection products and services as a means of assisting in compliance with legislation; this includes fire risk assessment services.
This document will be subject to periodic review by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council, so that it can be updated to reflect current thinking and experience in the fire safety community.
A second document entitled, ‘Fire Risk Assessment – A Guide for Businesses’ is in the initial stages of development and aims to assist duty holders in assessing whether they can undertake the fire risk assessment in-house or whether they should appoint an external contractor who specialises in fire risk assessment.
The guide is anticipated to be used by all the major industry stakeholders as a signpost to finding ‘competent’ fire risk assessors and links in with the ‘Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors’ document.
*The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council is made up of stakeholders from the fire industry organisations listed below:
Association of Building Engineers (ABE)
Association of Fire Consultants (AFC)
Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP)
Awarding Body of the Built Environment (ABBE)
British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE)
British Fire Consortium (BFC)
BRE Global Ltd (BRE)
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA)
Chief Fire & Rescue Advisors Unit (CFRAU)
Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
Construction Products Association (CPA)
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
Fire Industry Association (FIA)
Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
Fire Protection Association (FPA)
Federation of British Fire Organisations (FOBFO)
Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE)
Institute of Fire Prevention Officers (IFPO)
Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM)
International Fire Consultants Certification Ltd (IFCC)
Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH)
National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH)
Passive Fire Protection Federation (PFPF)
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Skills for Justice
Warrington Certification Ltd (WCL)
United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)