Leaders from across the fire safety sector offered their expertise on how they believe the industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what their various associations have been doing to support their members. Presentations come from the heads of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP), Fire Sector Federation and Fire Protection Association. Social distancing rules Following the presentations, speakers took audience questions, covering: Whether the impact will have long lasting effects on the sector. How have fire safety officers dealt with social distancing rules? Will technology be utilized to improve standards in the UK going forward? Speakers: Ian Moore, CEO, FIA Jonathan O’Neill, OBE, Managing Director, Fire Protection Association Niall Rowan, CEO, ASFP Dennis Davis, Executive Officer, Fire Sector Federation
In lieu of the Fire Safety Event which was meant to take place late April this year (now postponed until September), Nineteen Group hosted an online webinar event to discuss current fire topics. A number of notable fire safety specialists discussed different topics, but the overarching topic was how the coronavirus pandemic will affect fire safety and any additional changes it will require. Niall Rowan, CEO - ASFP, noted Dame Judith Hackitt’s comments that the previously thought difficult process to change the construction industry is very much possible, and coronavirus action has proved that. Fire safety procedures This is also applicable to all building fire safety procedures, if buildings can implement coronavirus safety measures, updates to fire safety (and health and safety) should be running parallel with this in BAFE’s opinion. In the opening session, Peter Aldridge, General Secretary - NAHFO, discussed the fire approach for the NHS Nightingale at Harrogate. Multiple areas were discussed, but it really came down to the thorough skilled assessment of fire risk that ensured multiple people with vulnerable and critical patients were as safe as possible from this element. Conspicuously the ‘humble’ fire extinguisher was one of the significant safety features used. Safer building environment BAFE are a member of the Federation and will continue to support their drive for a safer building environment from fire This was to control any potential smaller fires and prevent the necessity to evacuate COVID-19 affected patients. This was supplemented with the execution of making all NHS and site staff occupying said areas aware of their operation with training. Also touched on was action taken since the Grenfell Tower Fire. Dennis Davis, Executive Officer – Fire Sector Federation, discussed the Federation’s investment in a ‘Decade of Improvement’. One slide proclaimed fire safety was to ‘protect lives and property’. It stated to “use third party certified products to detect, suppress, contain and extinguish fires [and to] encourage suppliers and maintainers to become fire safe accredited [certificated] companies.” BAFE are a member of the Federation and will continue to support their drive for a safer building environment from fire. Fire safety providers Peter Wise, Principal Consultant – FPA, referred to the Act for rebuilding the City of London 1666 as the Dame Judith Hackitt of its day. As we quickly approach the third anniversary of the tragic Grenfell fire, BAFE hopes to see further action taken regarding all the recommendations soon, most notably regarding competency of fire safety providers to protect life. Remarkably in 1666 it only took six months from the fire until the Act was passed in February 1667. Fast forward to now and industry continues to self-regulate with UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification. Mandating this could be a ‘quick win’ for legislators, as previously said by Dennis Davis, Executive Officer – Fire Sector Federation, at the FPA’s Building a Safer Future seminar in January. Physical risk assessment Stephen highlighted the fact that fire safety legislation has not changed in the coronavirus pandemic Stephen Adams, Chief Executive – BAFE, spoke about the importance of Third Party Certification regarding fire safety providers. Stephen highlighted the fact that fire safety legislation has not changed in the coronavirus pandemic. If anything, BAFE believes this has greatly increased its relevance at present, as many buildings are changing their use to comply with coronavirus safety measures. Questions that followed Stephen’s session focused on Fire Risk Assessments. BAFE strongly advised that Third Party Certificated Fire Risk Assessment providers are used and that they are confident to assess your type of building. Coronavirus measures will affect access to particularly high risk areas where online video links with assessors could potentially supplement an exhaustive assessment and review certain accommodations (but this would not replace a physical risk assessment of the building). Any actions taken must be the best course to mitigate fire if building use is changing (e.g. moving staff to previously unoccupied rooms/areas or use of fire doors and keeping these open to minimize contact with handles).
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomes the release of the report following the first phase of the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, and will comment further once the findings have been examined in greater depth. It is well documented and understood that the major failing of the building was due to the cladding material, and the ASFP looks forward to phase 2 of the Public Inquiry when the circumstances that led to its inclusion in the building will be determined. The report’s finding that ‘effective compartmentation was lost at an early stage’ as a result of the fire on the outside quickly entering many flats via the windows due to the failure of the glass is not unexpected, nor is the failure of some key fire protection measures inside the tower. The ASFP has long highlighted the potential for failures in compartmentation in such blocks due to lack of maintenance and poor workmanship. Passive fire protection Public safety is being impinged by incorrect passive fire protection measures" In fact, such failures were first highlighted in 2003 in a Government sponsored ASFP report on passive fire protection in buildings, which stated somewhat prophetically, “Public safety is being impinged by incorrect passive fire protection measures and we feel that a disaster caused by accelerated or unexpected fire spread could follow if no action is taken to improve initial standards and to define the responsibility of building occupiers.” The ASFP believes the failings of the building, and others like it, are the result of decades of a prevalent culture in which fire safety has not been considered as seriously as is required. The race to the bottom culture in the construction industry, which extends from design through to final construction, was clearly identified in the Hackitt Report on Building Regulations. The ASFP has long campaigned for passive fire protection products to be third party certificated and for installers also to be members of third party certified installation schemes. This is a condition of membership of the association While the report suggests that the fire service bears some blame for loss of life at Grenfell, the ASFP believes that this is a somewhat harsh conclusion. The fire service personnel who fought the fire worked tirelessly in the very challenging environment which this very severe and almost unprecedented fire presented. Lack of serious consideration of fire safety And, while it is legitimate to question why the stay put guidance was not rescinded earlier, such guidance has served firefighting operations well over the years. In fact, last year there were over 5,000 fires in purpose built blocks of flats where stay put policies were successfully implemented and compartmentation was effective. We should not lose sight of that. ASFP has been concerned at the lack of serious consideration of fire safety since the 1980's" ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states that “ASFP, along with many other stakeholders, has been concerned at the lack of serious consideration of fire safety since the 1980's. As fire deaths fell, mainly due to the fitting of smoke alarms, improved upholstered furniture and the decline in smoking, there was a culture in Government that fire safety was ‘solved’ and we must not do anything to make building more expensive.” Audits of compartmentation “Changes in building materials and construction processes have transformed the way in which our building stock behaves in fire and poor workmanship and light touch enforcement of building regulations has frequently resulted in buildings that offer poor levels of fire protection.” “London Fire Brigade and other fire services must be confident of their procedures to realistically evaluate the effectiveness of stay put and must be equipped with an adequate knowledge of the structure of buildings to enable them to do this. This will require owners and responsible persons to regularly undertake audits of compartmentation to ensure passive fire protection systems that combine to create this vital life safety system are correctly specified, installed and maintained.” “We hope that Grenfell will be the catalyst for change to ensure such a tragedy can never occur again, and we will continue to work with Government and the construction industry to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment.”
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) held a Passive Fire Protection Workshop at the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) AGM and Conference in Brighton on 17 July. The session examined how passive fire protection is currently delivered and aimed to determine what improvements could be made with reference to four key pillars within the building lifecycle. ASFP CEO Niall Rowan offered a brief introduction to the vital role of passive fire protection in saving lives and protecting firefighters and property. He also provided reviewed the current regulatory situation in the UK post Grenfell and the various Government consultations. Delegates at the interactive Workshop then considered potential improvements that could be made during design and specification; installation; inspection and certification; then through ongoing management/maintenance. In discussing the design of buildings there was much agreement that fire safety should be considered early in the design process. Mr Rowan highlighted that the ASFP has been working with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on creating a Fire Safety Overlay for the RIBA Plan of Works. Fire risk management It was highlighted that changes to Building Regulations do not apply to existing buildings This provides a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage and a schedule for fire throughout the construction process. It includes sign offs as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support adequate fire risk management. There was support for this work, but a recommendation that the Plan of Works should include an enhanced role for fire engineers. Many in the audience raised concerns about enforcement, with inspections often not undertaken at crucial stages in the construction process and regulations not being strongly enforced. It was also highlighted that changes to Building Regulations do not generally apply to existing buildings. Recommendations for improving monitoring during the construction process included raising understanding of what should be inspected and when such inspections should occur; making third party certification of products and installers mandatory; and reintroducing the Clerk of Works role. Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) BCAR introduces an enhanced inspection process and defines the role of professionals ASFP Ireland Operations Officer David O’Reilly highlighted how the design and construction process was handled in Ireland and after much discussion the Workshop delegates agreed that a similar process to the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) should be introduced in the UK, with designers having a responsibility to sign off the completed building. BCAR introduces an enhanced inspection process and defines the role of professionals throughout the process, requiring certificates to be signed at various stages by Assigned certifiers and Ancillary certifiers. There was also much discussion about how to improve the quality of installation. One recommendation was to develop a benchmark of good installation for each project and inspect to it. It was also felt important to ensure the competency of installers and maintenance staff. ASFP Head of Training Phil Brownhill highlighted that there was no mandatory requirement for any form of qualification to install fire protection but noted that the ASFP, in collaboration with the IFE, had developed a training course leading to Level 2 and Level 3 IFE qualifications The Workshop recommended that there should be mandatory qualifications for installers and inspectors of fire protection products.
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection broadly welcomes the Government’s response to the Hackitt review, which accepts the majority of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations. The Association also welcomes the announcement of a review of Approved Document B. The ASFP is encouraged that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) implementation plan states that the Government intends to implement all the recommendations. However, the Association has some concerns about the pace of change, with the MHCLG stating its intention only to consult on many aspects of the implementation and not until the Spring. Improving The Quality Of Fire Protection Products The ASFP also supports MHCLG’s aim to improve product test standards and ensure clarity in marketing The ASFP welcomed the Hackitt Review’s focus on ensuring fire safety is considered early in the design process and the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures at the crucial Gateway Points of: Planning Permission, Permission to Build and Permission to Occupy. The Association also welcomes the focus on improving levels of competency throughout the construction process and is actively working with the Competency Working Groups established by the construction industry’s Competency Steering Group to deliver proposals for an overarching competency framework. The ASFP also supports MHCLG’s aim to improve product test standards and ensure clarity in marketing. The Association is pleased to see Government support for third party certification schemes for products, which it believes are key to improving the quality of fire protection products, but notes that this should extend to installers as well since this is where many of the current problems lie. Passive Fire Protection Forum The new requirements are quite restrictive and there are some contradictions in the MHCLG guidance The new Government guidance for assessments in lieu of tests (sometimes known as desktop studies) prohibits the use of such assessments for external wall systems for all buildings in scope of the combustible materials ban. It also restricts the use of such assessments in other areas and limits how they are undertaken and by whom, ensuring transparency and requiring companies that undertake these tests to do so to high standards. The new requirements are quite restrictive and there are some contradictions in the MHCLG guidance. Consequently, ASFP will be seeking clarification. ASFP has been working within the Passive Fire Protection Forum on a revised Guide to Undertaking Assessments in Lieu of Fire Tests, which aims to provide guidance on who is permitted to undertake such assessments, with qualifications, experience and training required being clearly defined. A revised version is expected early in 2019. Developing Minimum Standards ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states: “The Association welcomes the Government’s aim to implement Dame Judith’s recommendations as we strongly agreed with her conclusions; many of which reflect what the fire community, including the ASFP, has been saying for some years." We are pleased to see support for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products" "We also welcome the announcement of a full review of Approved Document B, which we believe is long overdue. We are pleased to see support for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and looks forward to working with Government and other stakeholders to develop minimum standards for such schemes.” Complete Overhaul Of The Building Regulatory System “We also welcome the tightening of the qualifications, experience and training required of those who will undertake assessments in lieu of tests, but will seek clarification as to the scope, particularly for non-building envelope related products.” “We understand the recommendations of the Hackitt Review were detailed and wide-ranging, since they called for a complete overhaul of the building regulatory system. We look forward to working with Government and other stakeholders to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment.”
The ASFP will be exhibiting at the IFE AGM and Conference in Brighton on 17-18 July, where it will be hosting a Workshop on Passive Fire Protection on 17 July. The objective of this afternoon workshop is to examine how passive fire protection is currently delivered and determine what improvements can be made under four key pillars with the building lifecycle. Design/Specification How are passive systems selected and who selects them? Who should select passive systems and how should they determine suitability? Installation How are installers selected and who selects them? Who should select them and how should they determine suitability? Inspection/ Certification Who inspects & certifies passive installations and how is their competence evaluated? Who should inspect & certify passive installations and what level of competence is required? Management/Maintenance Who manages installed passive systems? Who should manage passive installations, what knowledge and qualifications should they have? The workshop will be hosted by ASFP CEO Niall Rowan; ASFP Head of Training Phil Brownhill; and ASFP Ireland Operations Officer David O’Reilly.
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection welcomes the recommendations from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which it believes offer a brave and mature approach aimed at helping to deliver a safer built environment. However, the ASFP believes that the recommended reforms should be applied to cover the great majority of buildings rather than focusing solely on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs). Third-Party Product Certification The Association particularly welcomes the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures to be policed by the JCA The ASFP welcomes the focus on ensuring fire safety is considered early in the design process and also strongly supports the suggestion that third-party product certification be made mandatory. The Association also supports the introduction of the Joint Competent Authority (JCA) to provide coordination between the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authority Building Control and the Fire and Rescue Services. The Association particularly welcomes the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures to be policed by the JCA to ensure satisfactory completion of progress at the crucial Gateway Points of: Planning Permission, Permission to Build and Permission to Occupy. High Risk Residential Buildings Niall Rowan ASFP CEO states: “The ASFP supports the report as aiming to deliver a better built environment with fire safety given the proper consideration it deserves. We believe the focus on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs) is a good place to start, but we would like to see many of the recommendations rolled out progressively to cover the great majority of buildings since the issues raised are applicable to all buildings and not just HRRBs.” The greater emphasis on considering fire safety early in the design process" “The greater emphasis on considering fire safety early in the design process and so building what was designed is in alignment with the work we have been doing with RIBA on the creating a Fire Safety Overlay for the RIBA Plan of Works. Furthermore, to have a dedicated Dutyholder is also a logical step in coordinating fire safety throughout the construction process and prevents responsibility being passed onto others when problems arise.” Combustible Materials In High Rise Buildings “The ASFP also strongly supports the suggestion that third-party product certification be made mandatory. This is something for which we have been campaigning for many years.” The Association also notes that the final report does not ban the use of combustible materials in high rise buildings, which is strongly supported by many, including some of its own members. The ASFP commends Dame Judith for setting out a framework for the complete overhaul of the regulatory The ASFP commends Dame Judith for setting out a framework for the complete overhaul of the regulatory, testing and enforcement system, rather than introducing such ‘quick-fix’ measures but recognizes that such changes may take many years to implement and that some interim requirements may be necessary. Passive Fire Protection Products The ASFP also believes that severely restricting the use of assessments in lieu of tests (desktop studies), is impractical because these are needed for the huge number of combinations and variations of passive fire protection products. While the process of issuing such assessments is well established in the construction industry and works well in the vast majority of cases, the ASFP recommends that there is a need to significantly tighten up on the process, especially for products and systems used in external envelopes. Restrictions should be placed on who is permitted to undertake assessments in lieu of tests and the qualifications, experience and training required must be clearly defined.
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) has entered into an agreement with MPI Group to accredit the Corrodere Thin Film Intumescent Coatings Training Course, a new module under the Train the Painter coating applicator training program. Intumescent coatings are applied to structural steel either on or off site to prevent structural failure in the event of fire but it is essential that such fire protection coatings are applied correctly. This new training and certification program covers all the requirements for the successful application of thin film intumescent coatings and can only be conducted by approved training providers, who are Affiliate members of the Train the Painter Scheme. Two-Day Basic Coatings Course Those with no recognized qualification must undertake a three-day program A one-day course is available to applicators who have already completed the Train the Painter Bronze, Silver or Gold (or equivalent) course for other types of coating and obtained a Train the Painter Card. Those with no recognized qualification must undertake a three-day program which includes a two-day basic coatings course followed by the one-day thin film intumescent coatings applicator course. The three-day course includes two-days of general modules on Health and Safety; Paint Materials; Airless Spray Equipment; and Plural Component Spray. The one-day thin film intumescent coatings course provides an overview of the characteristics and Quantity Requirements for such coatings; Details of documentation, Training and application, Dry Film Thickness; Quality Control and Inspection Equipment. Thin Film Intumescent Coating The applicator must pass a theory examination for both parts of the course and a practical assessmentThe applicator must pass a theory examination for both parts of the course and a practical assessment after the thin film intumescent coatings module. The practical assessment aims to ensure that candidates can demonstrate they are competent in the specific tasks required to safely and effectively applying a thin film intumescent coating to a defined parameter or specification. Successful candidates will be awarded a Thin Film Intumescent Coating Applicator Qualification approved by BRE and ASFP. On achieving the qualification candidates obtain a 5-year CSCS ID Card. Those with less than 1600 hours of coating application experience can obtain an Orange Trainee Thin Film Intumescent ID Card; while those with over 1600 hours of experience can obtain a Red Thin Film Intumescent ID Card. Passive Fire Protection Product Announcing the agreement, ASFP CEO Niall Rowan said: “The ASFP has long recognized the importance of correct installation for all types of passive fire protection product, including those products and coatings aimed at protecting structural steelwork.” We look forward to working with the MPI Group on this new specialist module" “We are pleased to accredit the new Corrodere Thin Film Intumescent Coatings Training Course which aims to ensure that applicators are competent and have the skills and understanding to undertake this vital fire protection work. The Train the Painter scheme is an established program which offers a recognized qualification for all types of coating applicator and we look forward to working with the MPI Group on this new specialist module.” Correctly Applied Intumescent Coatings Welcoming the ASFP’s support for the new module, Andrew Deere of MPI Group declared: “We are very pleased to have the endorsement and support of such an important organization as ASFP for our Thin Film Intumescent Coating Course.” “We look forward to working with the ASFP team to bring the course to market to help improve standards and quality of work within the industry, to raise awareness of the importance of correctly applied Intumescent coatings and most importantly improving levels of health and safety in the workplace.”
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) is pleased to announce that the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launches a consultation on a new RIBA Plan of Work for Fire Safety. The document represents the culmination of work which was initiated in 2016 when the ASFP convened a panel of stakeholders from across the built environment to investigate how fire protection could be improved throughout the construction cycle. All identified a number of issues with the construction process, including: fragmentation within the construction design and build process, multiple sub-contracting and inadequate inspection of works during construction and on completion. Supporting Adequate Fire Risk Management Working with AHMM Architects, the stakeholder group recognized that developing a Plan of Work for Fire Safety, which complemented the existing RIBA work plan methodology, would provide a recognizable route for improvement. The work took on greater urgency following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 and the ASFP commends RIBA for taking the initiative forward to develop this vital resource for design and construction teams and building owners. The new RIBA Plan of Work ensures there is a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage The new RIBA Plan of Work ensures there is a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage and a schedule for fire throughout the construction process. The Plan of Works includes sign offs as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support adequate fire risk management. Improving Safety Of Built Environment The new document also reflects the recommendations of the Hackitt review, which called for a greater focus on the roles and responsibilities and a ‘Golden thread’ throughout a building’s lifecycle. The review also recommended the introduction of mandatory sign off procedures at the key Gateway Points of: Planning Permission, Permission to Build and Permission to Occupy. ASFP CEO Niall Rowan stated: “The ASFP welcomes the launch of this important consultation which represents a vital step forward in improving the safety of our built environment. We have long called for fire to be considered much earlier in the construction process and this new document clearly sets out the requirements and responsibilities at each stage of the process, from original design and throughout the life of the building, including changes and refurbishments later in the building’s life.” “The document represents the successful conclusion of many months of work involving a wide range of stakeholders from across the construction industry and as such we hope will gain strong support and recognition.”