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The Impact Of The New Safety Bills
The Impact Of The New Safety Bills

Mathew Baxter is the Founder and CEO of the echelon group with responsibility for the management of echelon Consultancy, Pretium Frameworks and echelon Improvement Partnerships. Mathew has spent most of his working life in the construction sector. The devastating Grenfell Tower fire has prompted what the government has referred to as ‘the biggest change in building safety for a generation’. So what do the Building Safety and the Fire Safety Bills mean in terms of emergent legislation and is the housing industry prepared for substantive change on this scale?  Fire Safety Bill Let’s start with the new Fire Safety Bill, which has been designed to give clear definitive guidance principally around areas of responsibility for fire safety. One way of looking at the new Fire Safety Bill is as a piece of legislation designed to beef up the existing legislation, focused specifically around the envelope of the building.   The Fire Safety Bill makes it clear that the person designated as responsible has undertaken a fire safety survey around exterior walls (including cladding, balconies and windows) and individual flat walls entrance doors, where they open onto common parts to make sure they are compliant and if not, then to take any necessary remedial action and precautions to make that building safe. We suspect that demand for fire experts may rapidly outstrip supply. Building Safety Bill The Building Safety Bill proposes a significant amount of consultation is going to be required with residents The Building Safety Bill proposes a significant amount of consultation is going to be required with residents. Every ‘higher risk’ property has to have a strategy around the program of change that it will need. Resident consultation exercises will result in organic documents that will live as long as that building is occupied.  Ideally all stakeholders (for example repairs contractors) coming in and out of properties should be encouraged and trained to take a holistic view of that property, and to be prepared to raise an alert, if they see something that is not right, for example, a fire door that has been propped open.  Checking and replacing old appliances Many fires are caused by residents’ own appliances. Some local authorities are checking tenants’ appliances and if they seem unsafe, either removing or disconnecting them and in some cases, they are also providing free replacements.  Housing associations and landlords will need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of their property and stock. For example, if you have a cladded building, you need to know exactly what the specification of that cladding is. Not all cladding is equal and risk profiles vary. Intrusive surveys may be required to ascertain the exact construction and product used. There is still a clear issue that many building owners/managers are unsure of what their building is clad in and how the cladding is fixed for the building. Effectively, this is something landlords need to get a comprehensive understanding of immediately, for fear of very rapid enforcement action from the Local Authority.    Adherence to fire safety regulation compliance Local Authorities are entirely within their rights to approach housing associations and ask for copies of the fire safety regulation compliance of these buildings and if it has not been done then they can take action and that can include decanting the whole building and ordering remedial works As previously mentioned, two new roles are also specified within the Building Safety Bill, that of the Accountable Person within an organization for fire safety and the Building Safety Manager. It is anticipated that the role of the Accountable Person role will need to be fulfilled by a senior member of staff within the client organization and the Building Safety Manager will have a high level of responsibility and accountability for maintaining the safety of the building.  Competency frameworks and resident engagement strategies The Building Safety Bill may have a grace period, before it comes into force on existing buildings The Building Safety Bill may have a grace period, before it comes into force on existing buildings and elements that are likely to be included are already being discussed, for example competency frameworks, resident engagement strategies and two separate roles, namely Building Safety Managers and Accountable Person. One of the most significant changes that the Building Safety Bill will create is a new definition of buildings as ‘higher risk’ buildings. This category will obviously include high rise, but also student accommodation and supported living accommodation.  High risk buildings Any building over 18 meters, or more than six floors high is immediately defined as high risk. The Bill also makes it clear that the new Building Safety Regulator (created under the Bill) can also add other buildings to the category at their discretion. The Bill places a lot more responsibility on landlords and owners of those buildings. In fact, the Accountable Person has legal responsibility for those buildings, as long as they are occupied.  Assessment of fire safety risks Responsibilities include the assessment of fire safety risks, co-operation with any remedial action in terms of fire safety, the registration of high-rise buildings, building safety information and the appointment of the building safety manager.  The Accountable Person has a duty to report the name and details of the Building Safety Manager to the Building Safety Regulator. This individual’s contact details have to be available to everyone in the building, a safety case report has to be undertaken and managed along with a risk assessment and an ongoing strategy for the safety of the building and information provided to the new regulator.  If the Building Safety Manager is found to be non-compliant then she/he risks a prison sentence.  Many of the clients are appointing Building Safety Managers directly with a salary between £60,000 – £70,000. The guidance is that they should not look after more than five buildings each, as the responsibility carries too much weight for more and as such, this represents a significant resource for many landlords with a large portfolio of ‘higher risk’ buildings. Undefined transition period for Act rollout The new Building Safety Regulator will become the Building Control Authority for higher risk building There is expected to be an as yet undefined transition period before the Act applies to existing buildings. As well as the changes that will be necessary to existing buildings, it is essential that consideration is given to the design and thought process behind new developments and new builds. There is a whole new regime for the design and construction phase.  The new Building Safety Regulator will become the Building Control Authority for higher risk buildings. Developers are no longer able to choose their building control authority at will. This imposes strict competency requirements on all duty holders working on higher risk buildings, including the client, the principal designer and principal contractor. Impact of the two safety bills The impact on these two Bills will have an enormous impact on leaseholders and indeed everyone involved in construction and building maintenance. The administrative burden and personal responsibility on those accountable will be equally enormous but, in our view, in the light of Grenfell, absolutely necessary.  Our advice to all our clients is to start planning ahead and to develop a strategy of how they will deliver all the aspects of the Building Safety Bill once it becomes legislation.

What Does The UK Spring Budget Mean For Fire Services?
What Does The UK Spring Budget Mean For Fire Services?

On Wednesday 3rd March the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the Spring 2021 budget to the House of Commons. In this, Sunak outlined how the Government would be rebuilding the economy and continuing to financially support its citizens as the country gradually returned to a sense of normal after COVID-19 restrictions. Highly anticipated announcements Despite several leaks to the press, the Chancellor’s announcement was highly anticipated by many industries, businesses, and individuals around the UK. Many were poised to find out what the spending plans would look like as we continue to tackle the Coronavirus, but also what long-term aid would be given to those who have been and will continue to be impacted by it in years to come. Not least on the list of eager listeners were the emergency services. The fire and rescue services in England have been slashed by £139.7m since 2016/17 Austerity measures and efforts to tighten the country’s purse strings in recent years left the emergency services in an especially vulnerable position when the pandemic hit the UK at the beginning of 2020. According to recent reports uncovered by England’s Fire Brigade Union (FBU), the fire and rescue services in England have been slashed by £139.7m since 2016/17. Fire safety engineering This analysis, which was released by the FBU at the beginning of this month, reveals a 13.8% reduction in government spending in the sector, despite an increase in demand for emergency fire and rescue-related services due to increased wildfires, flooding, and heightened emergency calls during national lockdowns. Basil Jackson, Managing Director of Vemco Consulting Ltd, a management consultancy specializing in the delivery of specialist fire safety engineering services, comments on the importance of the government knowing its limits when it comes to making these kinds of cuts. “The need to manage public spending has been the focus of successive Governments in recent times, and for good reason,” Jackson begins. Preliminary spending envelope For each public service there comes a point where there is no more fat to cut" “But, while cuts across the board may be necessary to some extent, for each public service there comes a point where there is no more fat to cut and core services start to be adversely affected. In the case of the Fire Services, this impacts the ability to save lives in an emergency,” he goes on to say. “Once lack of funding starts to have an adverse effect on the delivery of core services, the Government will have very little choice but to make more money available.” In his announcement at the beginning of this month, Sunak outlined a preliminary spending envelope. According to these plans, the Government has promised to increase day-to-day spending across public services by 2.1% in real terms each year, between 2021/22 and 2025/26. According to the Budget proposal, this does not include emergency spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivering core services The Chancellor failed to outline any specific plans in terms of actual cash value However, while this does come as positive news for the public sector as a whole, the Chancellor failed to outline any specific plans in terms of actual cash value. He also did not mention how this spending would be allocated to each sector; while the NHS and schools have since been named, the Spring budget has yet to address what the impact will be for emergency services like the Fire Service. In response to this announcement, Jackson suggests that this uncertainty needs to be addressed sooner rather than later if the UK’s Fire Service is to continue to deliver core services and prevent emergencies and risks to public health as we move into the Summer. “Extra spending arising from COVID 19 and costs associated with Brexit will, no doubt, put further pressure on the public purse going forward, so I expect more cuts [to emergency services] are to come,” he states. Funding for community projects While many elements were missing or not fully addressed in the Spring Budget, many have praised the Government for at least emphasizing the importance of giving autonomy to local councils and authorities going forward. According to Sunak’s statement and the White Paper that followed this, financial provisions will be granted and powers will be devolved to local councils to allow them to rebuild communities as national COVID-related restrictions ease. The Government is introducing several financial schemes and funds To do this, the Government is introducing several financial schemes and funds, including the Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund, which are both competitive schemes which will allow councils to apply for and gain funding for community projects and development up until at least 2026. Releasing specific details While key bodies like the Local Government Association (LGA) welcome this, emphasizing that ‘councils know their local areas best and have delivered for their communities’ and that it is therefore ‘good that councils have been placed at the heart of the delivery of new funds,’ organizations like the LGA are concerned by several of the proposals outlined in the Spring Budget. “We are concerned by the prospect of competitive bidding as we want all our resources and energy to be used to support regeneration in our communities,” it states in its official response. The LGA goes on to put forward an official Budget submission which calls on the Government and Treasury to release more specific details on how much money will be available and how much each sector will have allocated to it. These calls have been echoed by those throughout the emergency services, from the NHS, to police forces, and are also reflected by those positioned within the Fire Service sector. Impacting public safety There comes a point when this impacts public safety; which isn’t acceptable" In response to the announcement, Jackson states: “I am under no illusion that all public services need to be scrutinized, and any inefficiencies drove out. Quite rightly, the taxpayer should expect to receive efficient services for the money it pays. However, when it comes to the emergency services, there comes a point when this impacts public safety; which isn’t acceptable.” “The key question for the Fire Service and the Government is: at what point has true efficiency been reached?  I can't remember where I first heard the term, but this is what I like to refer to as a ‘wicked problem’. By that I mean there is probably no perfect or correct answer. Whatever the answer, it will involve innovative thinking from the Fire Service to find more efficient ways of delivering the same outcomes, and it will require a Government who is able to listen and be honest about the issues." Luna Williams is a content writer and commentator for Vemco Consulting, a UK-based consultancy firm that specializes in the delivery of specialist engineering services, including fire safety engineering.

Don’t Play With Fire Safety In A Post-COVID World
Don’t Play With Fire Safety In A Post-COVID World

The risk of fire is thankfully not an immediate threat in most people’s everyday lives. But this has led to a nonchalant attitude where many fail to appreciate the true dangers posed by a fire situation. The pandemic has served to make matters even more complex, and has pushed fire safety on the back burner as facility managers (FMs) turn their attention to COVID-proofing the workplace. Safety at work is now more of a focus than it has ever been, but the race to ensure we can return to work safely has seen other important matters, like improving indoor air quality, take precedence. Fire detection systems  As new rules and regulations regarding the pandemic are introduced, many FMs have been unable to focus on anything except the immediate issues at hand. But fire safety is always immediate. Fire detection systems and servicing and maintenance contracts have always been considered grudge purchases, but this doesn’t mean they should fall off the radar. As buildings have been left vacant, fire alarms have gone untested, have missed upgrades or have even failed to sound. Every business has faced unique challenges in their response to the pandemic But upholding fire safety measures in the workplace is both a moral and legal requirement to help ensure the protection of people and assets, and businesses must treat it with the attention it deserves. Every business has faced unique challenges in their response to the pandemic. We’ve seen some continue operating as usual, some pivot production to make face masks and hand sanitizer, while others have shut their doors for the foreseeable future. Fire risk assessments Those that remained open will likely have experienced considerable changes to workplace layouts, which may in turn have had adverse effects on fire safety – for example, fire doors being wedged open for ventilation, or because people don’t want to touch door handles; and new one-way systems that affect shared escape routes. What’s more, fluctuating staff occupancy levels mean there may not be enough fire wardens present should an alarm sound. All of these changes have an impact. In the event of a fire, your staff and assets might not be as safe as you think. But there is a simple solution: fire risk assessments. The vast majority of companies have undergone a change of occupancy during the pandemic and, as a result, must review their current fire safety measures through a risk assessment. Qualified third-Parties We often find that businesses lack staff with the appropriate training and skillsets in-house This involves looking at a building’s people, processes, procedures, contents and technologies, from fire alarms to sprinkler systems, with the aim of addressing any faults. With occupancy levels and more changed for the meantime – and possible for the long-term too – it’s vital to update your risk assessments. Failing to do so could have severe reputational and financial repercussions, particularly if livelihoods are affected. Should the worst happen, it could also lead to insurers refusing any pay-outs from failing to secure the premises, leading to even more difficulties down the line. We often find that businesses lack staff with the appropriate training and skillsets in-house to conduct a sufficient fire risk assessment. But even with the current restrictions, there’s no reason risk assessments can’t be easily carried out by qualified third-parties. Social distancing guidelines Many buildings lie vacant, meaning assessors simply need to show up in their PPE and conduct the assessment under social distancing guidelines. Technology can also play an important role, by ensuring a building’s safety systems are in order through remote diagnostic tools. Some assessors can even carry out a vast majority of the assessment virtually, examining floorplans, exit routes, and tech stacks from the comfort of their own homes. That said, many businesses won’t have the latest IoT sensors needed to notify FMs on the condition of a building’s physical aspects, such as occupancy levels, open fire doors or signage. Need for office space The impact of COVID-19 on the way we work will be felt for years to come The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to provide FMs with the knowledge they need to ensure their business and assets remain safe and secure, should the worst happen. COVID has not put a stop to this – distraction has. The onus is on FMs to put fire safety back on the priority list. The impact of COVID-19 on the way we work will be felt for years to come. For example, the success of the move to widespread remote work could see businesses revaluating the need for office space, and this will likely have knock-on effects to fire safety as regulations are taken into the home. Associated regulatory changes Elsewhere, the decline of the high street and closure of physical stores may see shops converted for other purposes - and these developments will be accompanied by the associated regulatory changes. It’s becoming clear that as the pandemic has changed the way we use buildings, it will also change the way we approach fire safety. People don’t like to think they may be impacted by fire, but we cannot let fire safety fall off the radar when livelihoods and lives are at risk. As FMs have worked hard to ensure our workplaces are COVID-proof once doors reopen, they must also approach the risk of fire with the same attentiveness. Awareness of the issue is now more important than ever – fire safety needs to be a top priority.

Latest MSA Safety Incorporated news

MSA Safety Launches LUNAR Cloud Technology For Firefighter Search And Rescue
MSA Safety Launches LUNAR Cloud Technology For Firefighter Search And Rescue

Over the decades, milestones in firefighter safety technology have included the open-circuit breathing apparatus, flame-resistant fabrics, thermal imaging cameras, and Bluetooth communications. Safety equipment manufacturer, MSA Safety Incorporated announced the availability of LUNAR, a new multi-purpose search, and rescue device that promises to join that list of breakthrough innovations. While production will begin in the coming weeks, LUNAR is available to order now. cloud technology Resulting from years of working directly with Firefighters, LUNAR uses Cloud technology to deliver breakthrough fire-scene management capabilities for incident commanders. According to Nish Vartanian, MSA Chairman, President, and CEO, the introduction of LUNAR delivers on the company’s vision of being a leader in introducing new-to-world technology that protects lives. Fire management “We’ve always viewed LUNAR, and its many potential applications, as a major leap forward and game-changer when it comes to enhancing fire-fighter safety,” Mr. Vartanian said. “Based on firefighter feedback that our team gained through months of LUNAR testing and evaluations with hundreds of firefighters around the world, we believe LUNAR has genuine potential to change the way fires are fought.” Understanding the need Mr. Vartanian added that LUNAR is a great example of how MSA has continued to invest in R&D and technology to advance its vision to protect firefighters from head to toe. “We understand our customers at a deep level. We listen, watch and learn from them. With this knowledge, we then look for ways to use new and advanced technology to help keep them safe, solve their problems and simplify their day.” LUNAR Features Versatile in design, LUNAR can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of an MSA SCBA system. Key features include: Exclusive Firefighting Assisting Search Technology (FAST), which combines distance and direction data enabling firefighters to locate separated teammates faster, when every second counts Personal thermal imaging enhanced with edge detection for improved situational awareness Direct cellular cloud connectivity to send real-time stats, including estimated air pressure, time remaining, and battery life, to Incident Command and remote monitoring personnel for a complete safety point-of-view A unique LUNAR-to-LUNAR network that automatically keeps each device connected to all others on-scene Overcoming challenges According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there has been a 35% increase in Mayday calls during the COVID pandemic, with more than 40% of Mayday calls never making it to Rescue Teams due to radio communication challenges. Connected Technologies Jason Traynor, MSA’s General Manager of Global Fire Service Products says that LUNAR will help alleviate that burden. “The ability to stay connected to your team can make all the difference during a rescue mission,” Mr. Traynor said. “To be prepared for a day that is more unpredictable than ever, firefighters need advanced tools that can help connect those who are on- and off-scene and support the safety of the entire team with accountability, technology, and data-driven insights. LUNAR will do that and more.” Enhances situational awareness LUNAR is designed for every firefighter on-scene, both on-air and off LUNAR is designed for every firefighter on-scene, both on-air and off, and represents the latest addition to a suite – or ecosystem – of MSA products the company has branded as “Connected Firefighter.” When used together, MSA’s suite of Connected Firefighter products creates greater visibility, increases efficiency, promotes situational awareness, and enables accountability, all while creating an enhanced network of safety. Increased firefighter safety “Accounting for all firefighters on a fire ground has been a consistent need expressed by the fire service profession, but it’s also been a challenge for many manufacturers to solve,” said Mr. Traynor. “When we looked at what we could do to enhance firefighter safety, we used a holistic approach to build a connected ecosystem of products where the sum of the individual components is the key to keeping firefighters better connected – and safer – than ever before.” Connected Firefighter platform Other products comprising MSA’s Connected Firefighter platform include: The company’s industry-leading G1 and M1 SCBA; The MSA HUB, a small, modular device that enables on-scene data and asset management; FireGrid, which gives incident commanders the ability to evaluate and manage multiple situations at one time from any location; and The company’s ALTAIR 4XR and 5X portable multigas detectors with embedded Bluetooth technology provide complete scene management. Responding to Increased Demand Despite the ongoing global pandemic, LUNAR has already generated high interest and demand from across the globe. To respond to this growing need, the company also announced the launch of a live, virtual demo experience that will allow firefighters to learn more about LUNAR from the comfort of their own fire station, at a time that works best for them. Live, virtual demo experience The launch of this immersive, online experience is another example of the company’s ongoing investment in a go-to-market strategy that delivers a unique experience in a way today’s customer expects. “As we continue to deliver on our mission of protecting people at work, I feel we are uniquely positioned to exceed the expectations of those who put their trust in the MSA brand and do so in a way they’ve come to expect from MSA – with speed, agility, and customer-driven innovation,” concluded Mr. Vartanian.

MSA And The National Volunteer Fire Council Partner To Giveaway XF1 Fire Helmet To Three Volunteer Firefighters
MSA And The National Volunteer Fire Council Partner To Giveaway XF1 Fire Helmet To Three Volunteer Firefighters

MSA and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) are working together to provide the most innovative and up-to-date technology to help first responders improve their health and safety. That’s why three volunteer firefighters that are NVFC members will receive a personalized MSA Cairns® XF1 Fire Helmet in 2021. To be eligible to enter, applicants must be an active U.S. volunteer firefighter and a member of the NVFC. Members will have three opportunities to enter to win an XF1 helmet throughout the year. One recipient will be randomly selected during each entry period. Integrated light module “Many volunteer departments often work with limited budgets, where providing top-of-the-line PPE isn’t an option,” said NVFC chair Steve Hirsch. “We are grateful to MSA for this helmet donation program and their organization’s continuous commitment to the volunteer fire service and the health and safety of our first responders.” The jet-style design of the Cairns® XF1 Fire Helmet reduces snag hazards, provides a personalized fit, and houses its own integrated light module. Plus, the soft goods are removable, washable, and replaceable, helping firefighters align with cancer awareness programs as written by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. Approvals include NFPA 1971-2018 Structural Firefighting and NFPA 1951-2013 Rescue and Recovery. The first entry period is open now through March 31, 2021.

Fire & Rescue New South Wales Places Second Order For MSA And Pac Fire Australia’s XFlex Range Of Structural PPE
Fire & Rescue New South Wales Places Second Order For MSA And Pac Fire Australia’s XFlex Range Of Structural PPE

Following the successful delivery of more than 5,000 sets of high-quality structural firefighting PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) from globally renowned specialist PPE manufacturer, MSA Bristol (MSA Safety Incorporated) and its Australian distributor, Pac Fire Australia (Pac Fire), Australia’s Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) fire service has continued with their roll out and expect to have an additional 5,000 sets of structural PPE delivered by June 2021. The expectation is that Fire & Rescue New South Wales will be able to complete the rollout of structural PPE to all of its 6,500 firefighters by December 2021. Fire & Rescue New South Wales Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) is one of the world’s renowned urban fire and rescue services Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) is one of the world’s renowned urban fire and rescue services and the busiest fire service in Australia, with more than 6,500 firefighters spread across 335 fire stations and attending close to 120,000 call outs per year. An extensive evaluation and wearer trial carried out in 2019 led to FRNSW selecting MSA Bristol’s popular XFlex ensemble for its PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) upgrade. MSA Bristol is a renowned designer and manufacturer of protective clothing and equipment for emergency services across the globe, formed by the recent acquisition of Bristol Uniforms by MSA Safety Incorporated. XFlex range of structural PPE Its XFlex range of structural PPE has been ergonomically designed with sports styling and lightweight fabrics, providing advanced comfort and protection. The unique fabric combination consists of Safety Components Nomex 360, combined with a GORE PARALLON liner system, which provides unparalleled levels of breathability while preventing drops in thermal protection.  On taking delivery of the new kit, Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) Commissioner, Paul Baxter said, “These new uniforms are heavy-duty but lightweight, allowing for enhanced maneuverability and coverage, and will be supplied in a wider range of male and female sizes, so all firefighters will have better fitting garments. They also feature a customized moisture barrier, which helps prevent steam burns and keeps firefighters dry while on the job.” Service information on UHF-RFID chip fitted to PPE Service information, such as garment specifics, is assigned to a unique UHF-RFID chip fitted within the item Pac Fire Australia (Pac Fire) is one of Australasia’s renowned suppliers of personal protective equipment to the fire and emergency industry. Its specialized roll-out of the XFlex range of PPE ensembles to the Fire & Rescue New South Wales has included the allocation of each item to a specific firefighter. Service information, such as garment specifics, date of issue and firefighter information, is assigned to a unique UHF-RFID chip fitted within the item. This process allows garments to interact with inventory management and laundry systems, tracking physical location and the condition of the item, throughout its service life. Advanced fabric technology offers optimum protection Paul Clark, Business Development Manager (BDM) for Pac Fire Australia said, “The XFlex design with its distinctive sports styling has proved particularly popular with the firefighters, offering greater flexibility and reduced resistance when carrying out physical tasks, as well as providing optimum protection thanks to the advanced fabric technology.” Roger Startin, Joint Managing Director at MSA Bristol (MSA Safety Incorporated) said, “The roll-out of the first order went very smoothly, despite the challenges of the global pandemic, and all garments were delivered to schedule. It’s great to see the New South Wales firefighters in action in their new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and we’re delighted to be following this up by providing a further 4,500 sets of structural PPE this year.”

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