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This webinar reveals to establish competence in selecting and appointing resources supporting organisational fire safety management strategy.
Topics covered during this webinar include:
- Expert opinions about common definitions of competence and do they apply to fire safety management.
- Exploring the benefits of getting it right and the implications of getting it wrong.
- Hearing about what competence might look like and how to describe it.
- Providing a better understanding for when selecting internal and external fire risk assessors that the selection criteria is the same.
- Hearing how employers, clients and organisations senior and middle management can make the right choices and decisions concerning resourcing and appointing competent people such as the ‘Responsible Person’, Fire Risk Assessors’ and establishing a ‘Fire Risk Management Strategy’.
If you would prefer, you can read the transcript here:
Webinar transcript: How responsible persons select competent fire risk assessors and management support
Good morning and welcome to today’s session on how responsible persons select six competent fire risk assessors and management support hosted by SHP broadcast by and former markets and sponsored by Praxis42. My name is Ian Hart. I’m the editor of SHP and I’m going to be your moderator for today. Just a couple of brief announcements before we begin.
First of all, this webinar is designed to be interactive. The buttons at the bottom of your screen will allow you to learn about today’s speakers, download any resources related to the webinar, share the session on social media, and participate in the q&a session that will take place at the end of the presentation. You’ll find a q&a widget on your screen. Please get your questions in as soon as they come to you throughout the session. And we’ll aim to get through as many as we can. At the end.
A full recording of the session will also be available for you to listen back to on demand should you have to leave us for any reason, and it will be emailed over to you in the next couple of days. Also, a reminder that once the presentation is over, you’ll be able to download your CPD certificate from the webinar console. So please make sure you do that before you leave us today. Speaking on to the presentation today, we have Mike Stevens, co-founder, director of Praxis42 Adam Clarke, Managing Director of consulting at Praxis42 and Nick Coombe NFCC protection and business safety Vice Chair.
I’m now going to handover to Adam who will kick start the presentation. And I’ll be back for the questions at the end. Adam over to you.
Adam Clarke 01:29
Thank you and good morning, everybody. Welcome. And thank you for joining us. competency is a topic that we discussed frequently at Praxis42. And is evolving at some pace. As the industry decides how it builds on the work that has already been done. Our agenda for this morning, we’ll include why the topic of competence needs more discussion, why competence is so important and relevant case studies, the future of competence in the fire industry, our approach to competence at Praxis 42 and a short question and answer session at the end.
So, what do we select this subject to discuss with you today? We feel that the industry as a surgeon general needs to do more to ensure that companies and individuals are competent to undertake fire risk assessments. The biggest barrier to this is clients not understanding how critical competence is and what the impact can be. If they don’t appoint a competent assessor, whether that be an external or internal organisation. If clients start to insist on a selection criteria, then we can drive change forward as everybody in the industry will need to kind of conform to that new selection criteria so that they are available to undertake work and remain competitive. Competence must be considered for external appointments. But also that organisations need to appoint their own in house competent person, we must consider that when we’re going through and recruiting somebody to work for organisation, we will have a look at their CV, understanding of their qualifications and experience. But is that enough? And do we need to go further into that? Understanding the value of competence. Competence often comes at a price often requiring more time and effort to ensure that any assessment delivered is suitable and sufficient. And as well as a quality assurance processes that sit behind that. We want buyers and other decision makers to really ask what are they getting for their money? And if they are seeing very low cost prices coming through for the work that they’re looking for. It’s really challenging that and saying, Well, what what am I getting for my money? And when I have my risk assessment come through the other side of that, is that going to stand up? If ever there was any kind of issue. Competence is as important in non-complex Estates as it is in complex we hear a lot of focus on high rise and making sure that anybody who can assess a high rises is competent. But competencies for low risk retail estates, for example, is is just as important. So we need to be asking the question constantly. Is somebody competent to do what we’re expecting them to do? And lastly, we really want to aid people involved in the decision making process that may not have the understanding, especially if it’s in a large procurement processes to what is a fire risk assessment. What’s it made up of? What what expectations are there of an organisation that are going to be doing this work on your behalf? So we feel that this topic requires a little bit more discussion, to aid the industry for tightening up and making sure that it’s regulated and people are being held to account for their for their competence, but also that those who are engaging the services know what they’re getting. So please let me hand over to Nick comb who will give us an insight into why confidence is so important. And thank you to Nick for for joining us today.
Okay, thank you. Yeah, my name is Nick who I work for the National Fire chief’s Council. I’m actually in my 40th year of London fire brigade. But I’ve been seconded to the National Fire chief’s Council since post Grenfell, and I’m working on the new building safety reform, and any of the changes to the fire safety order.
So, what is competence? So, it’s in the actual fire safety order under Article 18. And it says the person is regarded as competent for the purposes itself, where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them to properly assist him in undertaking the preventative and protective measures.
So, there’s nothing in there about qualifications or anything like that. You know, that’s, you know, so there is no specific qualification that says, yes, you’re competent, it is that combination of training and experience, or knowledge you already have and other qualities, and we can talk about that a little bit later.
So have we learned lessons Grenfell tower, it was obviously a tragedy, and it put competence in the mind of everyone. But this this says here, it is recommended that you can set your authority consider the training needs of personnel, who are involved in procuring or supervising work to exist in high rise residential buildings, where the maintenance, refurbish and rebuilding parts of the buildings ensure that materials product used in such work as appropriate fire protection qualities, that you might be thinking, well, that must come straight out of the Grenfell tower inquiry. But actually, it’s not from the courier’s recommendation, and Laterano house, and therefore have we learned them lessons, you know, since that fire back in 2009, if we had maybe Grenfell wouldn’t have happened.
And this, again, is from that same Lachenal house coroner’s report, you should consider the skills and experience needed to undertake an assessment of high risk residential buildings, you should consider the training required for members of staff considered to be competent to carry out assessments, who should ensure that assessors have access to relevant information about the design and construction of high rise, residential buildings and refurbishment work carried out?
Again, it looks like they were foreseen what was about to happen, you know, from that previous tragic fire that led to an even firmer fire. So even incompetence was being considered. But was it really taken on board? So, what’s coming forward. So last week, the fire safety bill finally went through Parliament, which should now be known as the Fire Safety Act. And probably in about two to three months’ time off its seed have received its Royal Assent will come into effect. And this basically clarifies the external walls, front doors and balconies should be part of the fire risk assessment for residential buildings. And it’s not just blocks of flats, it’s any residential building that contains more than one dwelling.
So, for example, if you’ve got two flats above a pub, or two flats above a takeaway shop, or any kind of shop, this now becomes part of it. So, you need to look at the doors, the external wall, regardless of what that’s made of, and balconies should have them. There will be statutory guidance that will be issued that should be coming out in the next three or four weeks to assist responsible persons fire risk assessors and enforcing the authorities in the implementation citation of the changes to the fire safety order.
So, what does it do? Well, basically brings in 1.7 million residential properties. These are not new buildings, they were covered by the fire safety order before but now you need to consider new changes, balconies, external walls, etc. It will have a massive impact on capacity and competence because basically, then 1.7 million buildings all their fire risk assessments now need up updating if they hadn’t come in that, the changes, one of the wordings in the fire safety bill is about the structure. It says the structure should be considered, which again, brings in new meanings to what a fire risk assessor must do.
Of course, there are problems of access to check back is in front doors in a domestic situation. So, how will this impact competence? There’s different types of competence competencies which is why it’s not a qualification such because you need a different type, depending on the type of building and the risks and complexities of that building. There’s a capacity issue here because you can’t update 1.7 million fire risk assessments overnight.
So there needs to be a staggered approach. And basically, we need to look at how the more complex is done first, because that’s where the risk is. And maybe the lowering can be phased in over a certain amount of time. As I said, they are issuing guidance to help. And there will be a toolkit that will come out that will help you prioritise these types of buildings, you know, basically, they kind of go on the website into information about the building, and it will kind of give you a grade in of how the priority of your risk assessment should work.
It’s more for large social housing providers in my other huge portfolio, but it can be used for single owners and fire risk assessors. There are obviously pas, double 980, which is about external warning systems, it’s just come out for public consultation, that will be for the very high end really for the technical kind of complex external wall systems, and to be used by competent persons such as fire engineers and building surveyors post 79. That game. Now by housing section, although it’s not currently on sale, it’s still actually not been withdrawn.
So, if you happen to have a copy of it, you can still use it that should be rectified fairly quickly. And if so, where does external wall systems come in on other buildings, they’ve always been part of the fire safety order in commercial buildings. But have we ever considered them? In our risk assessments? I think that’s something we need to look at now when we’re doing our risk assessments. And again, asking the question, are we competent to do external wall systems?
So the front doors of flats is now definitely in the fire safety order. And most people thought they were, but the government felt this need to clarify. And this brings, again, a different type of competence. There are so many different types of doors in blocks of flats and composite to timber, to glazed doors, etc. So, we need to know what they are.
So, we need to improve our knowledge of the type of doors. How do we inspect the pipe work? If there is any, any kind of markings on the doors? I think one of the worries is about the risk averse approach. You know, there are several courses at the moment, you know, diplomas in checking five doors, which can give you really good knowledge.
But I think we need to be aware that just because it doesn’t have markings and doesn’t have the appropriate paperwork, is it a risk? That’s the job of the competent fire risk assessor to assess the risk of that front door and the impact of it, you know, rather than just say, Well, I can’t find any evidence that is a fight or replace does actually have a huge impact on on RPS and the cost and then cost, in some cases will be passed on to the lease holders. I think what we don’t want to happen is who becomes a consultant’s charter, you know that, it becomes very easy that everyone becomes a consultant, and then just says, Let’s go for the best standard possible, whereas a true risk assessor should be able to assess that risk and decide whether it’s appropriate or not.
Structure impact so as I mentioned before, structure is mentioned now in the fire safety bill is just another string turbo. How do we do that? How would this be checked? We know a lot of the structure of buildings is hidden away if you’re at work and plaster work, is there. Is there an expectation that we should be checking this in how I think what it’s really trying to say is that when maybe if you’re looking at Rice and you see exposed steel beans, maybe you should have not been any fire resisting treatment, you should be able to recognise that. But there’s additional cost in all of this, you know, to the RP and to the time as well it takes to do a fire risk assessment, because the more and more they want you to do.
So, we’re expecting like this year, probably around October, some changes to the fire safety order. Most. A lot of these we do move Greenfield and the Phase One recommendations. But these are some of the things they’re thinking of doing from October onwards may take some time to come in, because I think they’re trying to tie some of it into the new building safety regulator. But they’re going to strengthen the position provision to statutory guidance. So basically, all the current dclg guides are going to be updated, and they’re going to be reissued under the home Office banner, I think they will be much more compact than they are. Remember, they’re about 13. Guys, I think some will be combined into different models out there to public assembly bonds are probably going to one guide required where the RP appoints a person to make a review the fire risk assessment, they must be confident.
Currently, technically, the way the old is written, you don’t have to be competent to carry out a fire risk assessment that this is going to be changed. So, their fire risk assessor will become a competent person under Article 80. The RP we must record all their completed risk assessment rather than just the significant findings. And they must have a UK-based address it will be recorded on the fire risk assessment. And, that the RP must take all reasonable steps to identify and sales to all lover RPS and where the new building safety regulator applies the new term accountable persons where they share or have duties in respect of the purposes.
So, if you’re carrying out a risk assessment, and there are other RPS in that building, it would be expected that you will be recording them on your risk assessment also require the O PS. And this recalls the name of the individual and the organisation, he took out the fire risk assessment. So not only just have the RPS name on it and have the actual individual and the organisation if they work from one on there. And this is probably a key one as well. If an RPS is leaving a building, they need to ensure that there are reasonable is that they take all reasonable steps to pass on any firing in fire safety information to the incoming, responsible person, that’s going to be difficult to prove, because there might be a massive gap between one RFP and another one coming in.
So, what I’m gonna do now is I’m going to look at a couple of case studies around fire risk assessments and maybe whether competent or not should have, you know, been able to identify some of the issues. So, this is a residential block of flats built in 2006 of timber frame construction at a completion certificate, it’s a well-managed block. And there were no obvious defects in the common parts.
So, what you see in the picture in front of you is an air brick as I’m sure you know, and there you will see some of that bark that you know, a lot of people have around round, you know, to keep it tidy in that. But obviously, it’s wood and mulch in that. And then there was a cigarette that was disposed by smokers outside that caught that block. That cigarette hasn’t been put there for plotting when we went around doing photos after the fire. This is what we found.
So, there was evidence of smoking around that. The fire then entered the cavity and because of known cavity barriers, that I don’t expect the fire risk assessor would have been able to spot because it’s been covered by the outside wall and the inside wall with the flats inside and the fire, you know, spread up the cavity and notice the new air is coming out of an air vent. This caused significant damage to the building.
Basically, a number of flats to be rehoused all for that just a cigarette on the outside. I think the purpose of this kind of case study is that fires do happen. The fire risk assessor, you know cannot you know would always detect all the problems in this particular building would have competent fire risk assessor have identified the wood chip things behind. Who knows, you might have come in the middle of winter, whenever soggy wet, you know, would have seen the smoking evidence would even check for the smoking evidence. And when he did an internal audit of the building, as I said before, there were no obvious compartmentation issues, you know, checking tiles etc., in that checking on the doors would have seen no obvious kind of defects effects, but a fire still happen. Because this was an issue with the actual construction and the missing cavity barriers inside the building. As you can see massive external damage.
Once you’ve got this information, though, this is where I think things change. So, if you were given the task to risk assess the other blocks on the estate, you now have evidence that there may be some defects in that building. And this is where more and more intrusive surveys will be required. You’ve got evidence now that says hang on this block had missing cavity barriers, I now need to determine whether blocks 234 and five have the same issue. Because I’ve got a known entity I know about the bark. Now I know about smoking.
So therefore my risk assessment has to change. Okay, second case study. So he knows thank God. So there is fire started in the cigarette butt spreading the cafe walls, and extensive further damage making the most of the building and habitable. Okay, second case study new residential blocks. So there were three blocks on this site and only one and actually been occupied.
In fact, there were only three families in this block at the time conventional construction, but there was compartmentation issues. And even though a boon certificate had been received, there were obvious compartmentation issues and I’ll show you some in a minute. And none of the smoke detection for the IVs or the actual because there was an alarm coming along in the car park had any commissioning certificates and worked at the time or didn’t work at the time, but a fire started in a motorbike there was in the ground floor carpark, and I’ll show you another picture you’re gonna see.
So, you probably can’t see that in the in the middle of the screen you’ll see the back of the motorbike and NASCIO top you’ll see that the riser cupboards in the cupboard there in the middle of the picture now. And what you’ll see when I showed them further pictures, that although the cupboard doors were fire doors, actually above was no more than shipboard. It was fairly obvious it wasn’t fire resistant at all. And a competent fire risk assessor should have spotted that and the gaps in the seed and etc. And by just pushing a few fires. This spread that double picture on two floors. This caused extensive damage to the building.
So brand new half these flats weren’t even occupied at the time, we had to rescue one of the families from their balcony hydronic platform because the smoke control system never worked. The corridors were filled with smoke, and they couldn’t get out of their flat. So that’s the rescue bias. Again, different floors and you can see the damage that was done and if you look there is no stopping above the walls it just goes straight above and as you can see there’s this gaps above all the cupboard doors, not proper fire resisting building at all.
So, as I say it’s so new residential block fast died in the basement carpark to me a competent risk assessor should have an hour to check that out to look at that very easy and advise even though it was a brand-new build, it was obviously poorly built. And I think we have an assumption that because of a new build and it’s just past building regs, it should meet and that should be the case, but I think we have evidence now post grim so that our build quality in this country is not as good as it used to be and the same with refurbishment.
So, what does the future of competence look like? Well, they I believe in in certain complex build range, you might need a team of people now to do your fire risk assessor, because one person won’t be competent to do all the ranges that you need. That’s not in every case, I’m not saying you know, but I do think you know, where you’ve got, you know, complex external wall systems, fire engineered solutions, problems with the structure, you might need a team for people, third party accreditation, I think it’s going to be important in the future.
I think there’ll be a drive for that LPR, you prove your worth, and how you’ll prove that your fire risk assessment and your kind of way of demonstrating to the new regulator, if you’re in that type of environment, that you’ve done your due diligence that you’re on some kind of risk register, your company’s got company registration. And I think it’s a peculiar look at third party products, and third-party installers, that is your guarantee, really, that you’ve done everything you can, there was never intention for the RFP, to be an expert in anything in the fire safety or an expert in everything. But this is how you can prove your do your due diligence.
You know, some people might say, Why be a fire risk assessor in the future, it’s becoming a very, very complex case, I think if you’re competent, you’ve got nothing to fear and competence and knows when you’re outside your depth, you don’t have to be an expert in anything, you might be excellent in a domestic arrangement, but can’t do a hospital or can’t do a residential care home. That’s not a problem that is competence that you know, are taught do something, you know, even, you know, who can do a nuclear installation, it’s a different kind of risk. And so just because you’re a competent virus, because it’s even on a register, it doesn’t mean you can do absolutely everything. And knowing your limits is a real judgement of how competent you are. Thank you for listening.
Adam Clarke 27:02
Thank you, Nick. And just picking up on some of your points there in terms of the future of competence. In terms of having a team of people, it’s an interesting approach. Traditionally, most organisations when it comes to delivering fire risk assessments, it’s one person going on site to undertake that fire risk assessment for as long as that is that needs, and then putting a report together afterwards. But as the as we change what’s being asked off the fire risk assessor, it comes back to well, how multiskilled can one person be to deliver that fire risk assessment. And if we’re asking for somebody to have that level of experience, and most likely, you’re not the GP of fire risk assessing where you know a bit about everything, one, there aren’t going to be a huge amount of people who can do that. And equally there, their availability is going to be limited.
So, for those who are who are leftover, if that fire risk assessment needs to be a combination of one or more or more people, inevitably, that’s going to be adding to the cost of the overall process. And whether you can combine those people being on site at the same time obviously, is difficult to coordinate. So ultimately, organisations delivering that type of fire risk assessment are going to be looking to charge more, and then the organisations that are looking to purchase that are going to have to pay more. And then there’s I suppose a temptation there to look at well, is there another option? Can I just go for, for somebody who says that they can do all of this, and it seems to be a price that I’m prepared to pay?
Yeah, it’s a good point. As I said, I think I think the team is more at the upper end of complex, but I think even, you know, I’ve seen a number of Fire Rescue systems where they refer to other things like, you might need a compartmentation survey, you might need someone to check your electrics. So, it’s always kind of been there, you know, in that sense, but I think now we’ve brought in external walls and structure, I think, you know, in a more complex case, they are beyond the remit of even a competent fire risk assessor.
You know, in certain cases, I expect a competent fire risk assessor to assess a brick external wall. You know, a three story should be fairly simple, you know, but I think your cost bit I think it’s important up, you know, this is a game and it’s not a game, but this is where you do get what you pay for, you know, I always use the analogy about car service. And if you drive a Mercedes Benz and someone says they can service it for 50 quid, what do you really think you’ll get into, you know, and if you’ve got a large portfolio and complex buildings, what do you think you’ll get in units a Google fire risk assessment straightaway comes up 99-pound risk assessments, what do you think you’ll get?
You have an onus as a procurer of the service, to ensure that you’re getting to ensure your contracts are right. So, you know what you get in. And I think that’s important. And where you can help yourself is when you’re procuring services lay down rules, like, for real fire risk, assessors must be able to register or end or your company must be SP 205, that kind of stuff. And then you’ve got that kind of due diligence, but you have to pay for that.
But, you know, I remember when I was running the primary authority scheme for London fire brigade, to tell a large portfolio holder, that they’d spent half a million pounds on fire risk assessors, and it all had to be done again, because none of them were suitable or sufficient. So, they ended up paying another 1.2 million pounds, I think it was, but on top of that, you know, and so basically, they cost them money, because they didn’t do it right in the first place. And I think that’s a really important message, do it right, first time will save you money in the long run, you don’t want a fire inspector coming along, saying it’s not good enough, do it again, and then you’ll have to pay again.
Adam Clarke 31:11
Exactly. And also, to build on the procurement process, I think it’s vitally important in really nailing down the scope of what is expected from any organisation, that’s, that’s going to be undertaking a fire risk assessment. And if you’re an organisation that uses a third party to do your procurement, that you’re that you’re getting that scope correctly undertaken, so that when you’ve, when you’ve gone through the process you’ve appointed and you start on the first few coming in, and they actually, they hold up, because, you know, five or six organisations will inevitably try and do what they’ve been asked to do.
But if it’s not clear, well, there’s ambiguity that it could come back to bite you in the future. And there’s, there’s an argument there if a procurement team doesn’t have or there’s not somebody internal, who’s got that understanding of what the scope should be for fire risk assessment tender that, that, you know, getting some external advice on that would be a valuable investment in the overall cost of that process?
Yeah. Sorry, I’ll just say, Yeah, we can’t underestimate how important procurement is, I think a lot of people don’t know what they need. And they think, oh, I just need a fire risk assessment, don’t know anything about what comes with that, what they should see about that about the action plan, etcetera, etcetera, they think I’ve got a document, I’ve complied with the law. But we all know, although it’s much broader than that. And I think there needs to be some help in that about how to procure it.
Adam Clarke 32:49
Exactly. So, I’m just going to move on to give you a bit of an understanding of how practice 42 as approached, competence in our organisation, so as quite rightly said, there’s not really a very clear definition as to what are competencies. So, we’ve tried to set ourselves up to not only be able to help our clients to understand the whole process, but also how we can support our people out in the field who are doing the fire risk assessments. Because, you know, having your name on a fire risk assessment as the fire risk assessor you shouldn’t be under underestimated it’s, it’s vitally important that you recognise that as a lot of weight that comes with that.
So from our approach, we’ve got a setup, that means that we can not only deliver the fire risk assessment, but help support the organisation with the actual outcomes of the fire risk assessment process. Because once you’ve gone through the process, and you start to find that you’re, you’re having 10 100 fires, because it’s coming back, it’s vitally important that you’ve got a process for managing the outcomes of those, how are you going to prioritise it and what was a pragmatic approach to getting any remedial actions undertaken?
We also have we also set up so that our field team are supported. And that quality assurance is embedded end to end and, and that for us is where the real value comes in that where we’re making sure that we’ve got systems and processes in place, but those are actually really being lived and breathed on a on a day-to-day basis so that we can be assured that what we’re doing is, is correct. So, in terms of our fire risk assessors, we set minimum qualifications and experience against the premises that we assess for our clients so we can ensure that as we often do, if we’ve got new fire risk assessors coming into the team, that they have quite an extensive probe gramme of mentoring, shadowing, and coaching to ensure that underpinning knowledge is being applied appropriately.
And I think we have to bear in mind that certainly for new fire risk assessors that most will have only completed a five-day fire risk assessment course, which will be quite intensive and give you say that that level of underpinning knowledge, but fire risk assessment. And the process of going through that and all the other guidance that sits behind it can take years and years and years to really get a full understanding of it. And we need people to, again, be mindful of their own limitations. And when you’re starting anything new that you need some more support, you need some help. And if you’re not sure to put your hand up and ask the question, don’t just carry on with it.
Regardless. We are part of a nationally recognised fire risk assessment register. Our people are on that, and we feel that this eventually will become the standard. So, we’ve tried to get ahead of ahead of time so that we can demonstrate that our people are, are competent, as we hope that clients will be asking that question of us. And so, we’re able to demonstrate that we’ve done our part.
And lastly, and again, this just builds on what Likud said earlier that we that we really wanted to instill a culture of, of knowing our own limitations, you know, I remember back to my first day my apprenticeship in in health and safety, it was, you know, if you’re, if you’re ever going outside of your comfort zone, do it slowly and do it carefully. Go back to the guidance, go back to the legislation and ask those who, who know who know more than you do. And get yourself to a point where you start to feel more comfortable. But no matter how experienced or qualified you are, you’ll always come to a point where something comes out that you weren’t expecting. And that’s the point where you must revert to that same limitation. And as we move into the unknown, and if we are building and asking assessors to do more than they’ve done before, you’re coming back to that same cycle, again of learning, and taking things slowly so that we were approaching it in the right way.
So, from a framework point of view, again, as a business, the delivery of five safety, safety related services is a big risk to us. As you can imagine, we have appropriate insurance in place, and we have limitations as to what we can and cannot do. And as an organisation, we never want to be in a situation where our competency is questioned in relation to fire safety services.
However, it is that we can demonstrate our approach in an evidence base. And in trying to do that we are we we’ve gone through our accreditation to base SP 205, which I mentioned earlier, which is a life safety, fire risk assessment accreditation. And that’s for Praxis42 as a whole. And we’ve also got our Quality Management System accredited, accredited to ISO 9001, which includes all our policies and procedures around how do we deliver our services to our clients. But more importantly, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve got a really robust quality assurance process in place, which means that even our most competent fire risk assessors are having their work regularly peer reviewed. And, you know, again, we do have to bear in mind that we are, we are only human, we can make mistakes and errors.
And whilst that’s not intentional, the quality assurance process is there to make sure that those are picked up and that they are questioned. And you know, at times, it gives us some opportunities to highlight areas for improvement. But more importantly, it gives us a huge amount of confidence that we are consistently doing things in the right way. And our framework is also continuously reviewed, as Nick explained as there’s changes that are going to be occurring, and there’ll be more changes over time and we need to be able to adapt to that so that we can demonstrate to any potential clients that we’re a competent organisation and if you if you put your faith in us, we will do and deliver a good job.
And that’s one of the more difficult challenges that I find now when we’re being approached by organisations to give a quotation or put a tender in for fire-rated services quite often. The first question I’m asking is well, who Are you comparing us against you? are we comparing apples to apples? Where you’re looking at organisations that have a similar level of accreditation that we do? Or are you comparing us to somebody that you found? Who is just telling you they can do the job for a very robust price?
If that’s the case, then if you’re not, if you’re comparing the two, you know, just with the side of caution, and ask the question as to what are you going to be getting for, for the money that you’re going to be paying for because, as an ex example earlier, what you don’t want to do is to commit to a large sum of money, go and have a lot of work undertaken for you. And then find out that that work isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and have to start again.
So take the time to ask the questions, to scope out what you want to be undertaken. And if you need to get some advice and guidance on how to set up a procurement process, then then invest the time to do so get it right once, make sure you’re inviting organisations that can demonstrate their competence to get involved with you, and support you not just with the fire risk assessment process. But as I said, with the recommendations and the ports that come from that fire risk assessment process, because it certainly doesn’t stop once the fire risk assessment has been completed. And if you take that kind of approach, you won’t be able to go far, far wrong.
Okay, so that’s the end of our presentation. Thank you very much for listening. I’ll now hand it back to Ian, who will take us through the question and answer session.
Thank you, Adam. Really interesting session. So far. So thank you very much to both of you for that. And we’ve had quite a few questions coming in. We’ve got about 15/20 minutes to go through those now. So please do keep those keep those coming in. You should see a widget on your screen, if you haven’t already found that.
So, Nick, I’m gonna come to you primarily for these but Adam and Mike, if you do you have anything set to add, please, please jump in afterwards. So, question from Duncan, first, Nick, and Duncan asked how many will be confident to declare that the fire rating on a door has no marking or paperwork with other likely responsibility that goes with that declaration, including liability if it’s wrong, said we’ll come back to for knowing your limits? And how competent you are?
Yeah, it’s a good question. Because it’s a bit you know, we’ve become very risk averse. And I think the liability there is the bit that I think he owns in it, it’s about, you know, are you competent enough to assess a door and say, actually, this will do what it’s meant to do in the time? Will it hold back for 30 minutes? I’m not sure. You know, but then that’s the immunity and a furnace test.
If it shuts, if it shut, it’s solid, with no obvious gaps and all that, maybe it’ll do the job. Or maybe it will be able to recommend that in the future when it’s replaced. And people keep their paperwork, I think it’s about having confidence in yourself. And like, it’s very easy to say, just get a new one, because you’re not paying for it and it removes your liability. But I just think, you know, we should be risk assessing.
That’s the purpose of this. It’s about deciding what that risk is whether it’s tolerable intolerable, etcetera, etcetera make that decision. Again, it might depend on how many of these doors are no paperwork, you know, and how much of that writing goes and where the, where the doors are, you know, is it different for a corridor, a dead end, you know, to a corridor to a door that’s at the front of the corridor, or a corridor door itself? You know, I think this is where you need to be able to use your skills and knowledge and experience, assess it.
Adam Clarke 43:56
And I think from a from a client’s perspective, if you’re having a lot of fires businesses, saying you must replace the door, don’t be afraid to ask the question, well, why, you know, if it’s not being clearly detailed in the fire risk assessment as to why the doors being replaced all the time you ask that if it’s a virus, because it’s confident enough to justify leaving the door in place, they will, they’ll know to justify why they’re doing it. So, it’s the same the other way around.
There’s also in the purpose-built blocks of flats guide, there is such a good you know, information on composite fire doors and other kinds of doors and plus on the consolidated advice note, there was a shoe player Michel Jean, January 2020. He’s got section on fire doors to look at that kind of a kind of you know, what doors or you know, acceptable and where and in said in the, in the LGA guide, there is a bit about what we can accept over certain heights and the building which will assist you
Great, thank you very much. Question from Glenn here. And Lynn asked just the interim review of the fire risk assessment require a competent fire risk assessor, for example, beyond the responsible person premise manager competency.
So, the ultimate responsibility for fire risk assessment is with the RFP, that’s what the law says. And he can’t get out of that. ultimate responsibility, what he can do is prove his due diligence under Article 33. They appointed competent people to undertake his preventative and protective measures, and one of them being his fire risk assessor and, you know, maintenance people and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, what he needs to do is, you know, demonstrate when it all goes wrong, and this is the issue that a lot of this stuff would go undetected because fine, fine whiskey services can only visit certain amount of premises, not far as going down.
But when it goes wrong, you might be in a current scope, which you don’t want to be in, or magistrates and Crown Court defending your actions as an RP. And don’t forget, even the risk assessor themselves can be held accountable, they are what we know as a 5354 person, and a fire risk assessor has been jailed for a non-suitable as efficient fire risk assessment. So, it’s an important job. So, you know, ensure you don’t go outside your expertise. And as an RPA, ensure you get someone who can who’s fit for purpose to do the role.
Mike Stevens 46:43
To something else I’d like to add in there, Nick, is that the responsible person should really be considering what they do in between times this review is no when is it six months, 12 months, but what they do every month, because we’ve all experienced the situation where the door was fine when the risk assessment was done. But then suddenly, things become a different door because it would make their premises look better. And the door isn’t fit for purpose. So those ongoing checks, are things important for the RFP to consider about what are the controls we’ve got in place? And are they working?
Yeah, the fire risk assessment is really a snapshot in time, isn’t it at the time of when it was done, and you know, you still must do is to maintain that building in an efficient and working stay till the next review comes or if something happens, it’s so significant, you bring the review of the risk assessment earlier. But yeah, it’s not a case of just getting it done and then waiting for the next one. You’re right.
Thanks, Nick, question from Philip here about commercials and in particular multi multitalented premises. Philip says he carries out virus assessments of such his fitness company to try and gain building related information for building managers. Knowing how detailed these are and to raise concerns for his business. If it appears there were shortfalls for communal areas and systems, liabilities from his side from his areas outside demise properties, who is responsible? And again, for the pharmacy risk assessments that should be in place from other tenants.
Okay, so it’s again, it’s a good question, especially in in in multiple occupied buildings. So, whoever is responsible for them areas, as an RP, they’re responsible for the fire risk assessment of that bit. There’s, there’s a bit in the old article 22 of her duties to cooperate and coordinate. And that’s where that comes up. And I think what you’ve got to ask yourself, if you’re a fire risk assessor, or an RP is, what will the impact on someone else’s negligence, they’re on my staff or my people I’m trying to protect, if it’s negligible, then then that’s fine.
But if it could have an impact, like if they’re blocking the common areas, or they’re doing so or they’re not servicing fits in their bid that can damage my bid, then you need to find out as much information as you can, who’s responsible where that fire risk assessment is, and how that impacts?
I know that sounds really easy, saying it, and I know it’s really difficult, you know, trying to find all that information and clear because you’re so individual, you’ve been commissioned to do one bit, and then you go to a building and there’s multi option there. And other bits are, you know, it’s how you again, he goes back to procurement, you know, you’ve got to allow factor in if it’s a multi ox, that you need some information for some other people and it’s the RP to try and get that off of other RPS. And that will be more strengthened up in the older. That’s one of the that’s one of the articles they are trying to strip in up as I said in my presentation.
Thank you then a question from Carly here. Carly asked if I get my FRA completed by an external consultant before the fire safety act 2021 comes into force, we’ll have to complete the assessments again.
So, the Fire Safety Act basically just clarified it, I think now people should be looking at this beforehand, don’t wait for the act to come. If they’re not including the external walls or the front doors of flats or balconies, if it’s residential, then do it now. Because otherwise they will be like, come when the when the ACT comes in, it’s come in, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing it now.
Thank you, Jeff asks, are all fire risk assessors going forward going to have to be on a competency register?
I think that would be the perfect scenario, but I don’t think it will happen. I think there’ll be some requirements for competency at certain buildings, and then it will just grow. As that comes on. I think, if you look at the registers, I think there’s only less than 500 people on all the registers put together. And there’s 1.7 million residential, that doesn’t even cover how many commercial buildings there are.
So, there isn’t enough registered people. And I always say this, if you go back to Gas Safe, and Kogi, it took over 20 years from Robin point, before the register became an official thing, because they realised that to build the registers up, and that’s what we’re going to do, I believe, probably blocks of flats over 80 metres, and maybe some care homes, and that will be the first kind of buildings where you’ll have to be on a register to do that, but that will take some time, and then it will start building up as it goes. But we are probably talking 20 years before, probably everyone has to be on a register, you know, it will take some time.
But the way the new regulation and the building safety recollect school work is you’re gonna have to, you’re gonna have to, to get a certificate for your building, you’re gonna have to demonstrate that you’re compliant. And the way they will do it is if you’re not on a register, it’s gonna cost you more to get your certificate because they’re gonna have to look more savvy dealt with to blows one, one through legislation, and one through actually, it will be cheaper to get a person on a register, than not have a personal register, because the ACC will charge me more money otherwise.
Adam Clarke 52:39
And I think with the time that it’s going to take to get that register up from running, it doesn’t mean that you still can’t ask organisations that you’re looking to appoint the competency of the people who are actually going to be delivering that, that for you. And asking questions about our Are you going to be allowing them to subcontract any further parts of that of that out? All those questions are vitally important to ask and to really nail down as part of any of any engagement contract that, yeah, there is a competency criteria for fire risk assessor. And although, you know, there are some very limited says there are some very, very good fire risk assessors who are not on any register.
So, you know, it doesn’t mean if you’re not on a register, you’re not competent, okay. But you can use that criteria that’s out there, if you’re trying to interview or trying to procure, use the criteria and ask them how they satisfy that criteria to demonstrate their competency, because that’s what you have to do to get on the registers.
Thank you, one from Karen here, who asks, can you advise how an assessor determines who the RPE is?
It’s a good question. Because, you know, and again, you know, I’m an enforcer rather than a fire risk assessor. My assumption was, the RP would, you know, employ the fire risk assessor, so I find it difficult, you won’t know, unless she’s meaning about other buildings in, you know. So, I mean, it comes down to, you know, the easiest way is, if it’s a workplace, then it will be the employer and you should be able to determine who the employer is, because they must have certain other duties. If it’s not a workplace, it could either be the owner, which can find from like Land Registry, or a might be someone else carrying out a business that’s not, you know, for employment. So that’s how it’s laid down in the Fire Safety order. I mean, if it’s an employer one, the easiest way is to place the wages or the certificate of insurance that’s normally hanging up in a lot of places. But I know identifying RP from enforcing point of view is sometimes difficult because they hide behind other kinds of companies and things like that. So, you know, but they’re the way you should be able to find out who the RPE is.
Mike Stevens 55:07
I think sometimes, Nick, what the frustration for either a practitioner point of view or somebody’s got responsibilities is understanding who has responsibility within that building, which isn’t necessarily the responsible person is the person that should be undertaking these things in that building, maintaining it, making sure the fire risk assessment is being applied. I think that’s where some of the frustration comes from. That might be why Karen’s asking that question.
Yeah, I mean, it goes back to your slide on the structure, everyone in that structure has responsibilities, you know, and ultimately, they, depending on their control, can be held accountable through the fire safety order, you know, but ultimately, the way the laws written is the RP, can, as I said, before, you know, developer himself have as a response, his or hers responsibilities, or as a company, I’ve always felt the term person is not very good, because he gives this impression of an individual, when in most cases in is a company, you know, is a PLC as such, although the director will actually be in the dock, if that goes to that the actual legal entity is the company itself as such. So, you know, I was disappointed in the new building safety bill, they’ve now got an accountable person, because it just to me, is the same kind of problems that you have, we really have this image of it being an actual individual, when in most cases, it’s not.
Thank you for the good time for what you want to see more live question from Mike here who says as a risk assessor, we’re dependent of the building safety and design and construction method is being followed correctly, is there more being done to ensure that the building is safe to start with?
I think that’s a really excellent question, because the fire the fire safety order, itself is a piece of legislation is based on the presumption that the building would have been built correctly in the first place. And fire risk assessments make a lot of assumptions. I think the problem is, I think recent events have shown us that that’s not always the case. And I think, yes, we are trying to improve that we’ve got, you know, the ban on combustibles, over certain heights, there’s going to be a number of changes to the approved document b, over the next few years.
There’s the first full review of the approved document, probably since 1985. But of course, that takes a lot of evaluation research, because it has to be evidence based rather than just knowing how we feel or an assumption. So, that will come. I think, you know, we’ve been talking today about competence in fire risk assessments, but the issues around competencies are also in the built in the built environment, as per se. And I think I saw one of the questions about is it all really about competence? And I think that’s a really good question. It depends on what you view competence. If someone doesn’t do the, if someone is competent, but doesn’t do the right thing. Are they incompetent? Or not? Is the question because a lot of a lot of the issues were find is about, you know, a corner cutting, I’m not sure everyone who’s not the right thing done is actually incompetent.
It depends on your view, that is what I’m trying to say. There are short deadlines, you know, timescales, not good coordination on a building site that allows these defects to go undetected. And therefore, we can’t say everyone’s incompetent. Sometimes it’s just about because we’re not gonna get caught, we can get away with it. And I personally think that is again about competence as well, if you think you should do the right if you’re competent, regardless of it, you should have got the right time, got the right effort, and got paid equivalent to do the right job all the time. Maybe that’s just me.
But Nick, thank you very much. That’s about all we have time for today. Unfortunately, I really want to thank you for the questions that you submitted. We had some really good questions that come in there as Nick as Nick pointed out, so really appreciate the engagement on that. Just before we go, I just wanted to remind you that the second Health Expo is back for 2021. This year, it’s gonna be made up of a month-long virtual event in June which will be followed by an in person event from the 12th to the 14th of July at excellent London.
As usual both events virtual and in person will take place alongside the workplace wellbeing show fire exits fire safety, if SEC intelligent buildings and the facility show and registration is now open, and you can register your spot by clicking on the Resources section of today’s webinar. I just want to thank Mike Stevens, Adam Clarke and Nick Coombe, for their time this morning of sponsors Praxis42. And thank you very much again to you for tuning in and participating so well in today’s webinar. For more content that you’ve heard today, please go to SHP online but credit UK where you can find the latest health and safety news and information.
You can also sign up to our daily newsletter. Be sure to check out the webinar page on the site which again, you can find the link in the resources widget where you can see the latest upcoming sessions that we have scheduled in as well as listened back to when the on-demand sessions that you might have missed. And as I mentioned at the start, a full recording of today’s session will be available to listen to on demand. And you can access that through the site or from the email that should be sent after the session.
Before you jump off today, I want to remind you again just to quickly download your CPD certificate which you can get from the console at the top of the screen. So please make sure you do that before you go. And I’d finally just like to draw your attention to the latest episode of the safety and health podcast which went live last week. And it features an update on the latest health and safety legislation including the fire safety bill, bill and safety bill and Coronavirus legislation. And again, you can find that in the webinar resources. Until next time, my name is Ian Hart. I’m the editor of SHP Thank you very much for your time this morning.
Adam Clarke | Managing Director (Consulting) | Praxis42
Adam is Managing Director of Consulting at Praxis42, having started his career as an apprentice in Occupational health & safety nearly 20 years ago. Adam has previously worked as a Health and Safety Consultant, Trainer and Director.
Adam is passionate about improving health & wellbeing, empowering ownership of risk and utilising technology to make compliance simple. Adam works with his clients to understand the organisations challenges and then supports them in understanding their compliance needs, tailoring bespoke solutions to fit.
Nick Coombe MBE Eng Tech FIFireE | NFCC Protection & Business Safety Vice Chair | Building Safety Programme Lead
Nick is the NFCC Protection & Business Safety Vice Chair and Building Safety Programme Lead, and was also named as one of IFSEC Global’s top influencer in fire safety in 2020.
He has 39 years’ service for the London Fire Brigade which has spanned many roles including, Head of Fire Safety Training, Enforcement Manager and Head of Fire Safety Policy. He has helped write DCLG guides and as the Chair of CFOA Enforcement working group helped produce policies and guidance on the RRO to Fire & Rescue Services.
He is a member of the Joint Regulators Group and the newly formed Protection Board and is also a member of the Industry Safety Steering Group led by Dame Judith Hackitt to hold industry to account on the progress of post Grenfell change.