Jonathan O'Neill urged Government to make the obvious changes to regulations required and “get on with it” at the Fire Protection Association’s Fire Sector Summit this week (05/11/19).
The FPA Managing Director thought it was important to chair the event this year to stress his feelings towards the current state of the fire industry. He opened the event commending the Fire and Rescue Services but commented “please don’t see Sir Martin [Moore-Bick]’s comments and recommendations [regarding the Grenfell Tower fire] as an attack. See them as an opportunity. If Dame Judith Hackitt gets her way you will likely to be asked to do more and more and to be better at it. You mustn’t stand by and see others moving out of the shadow of austerity, whilst you are left behind. Show that you are a service that listens and learns. Recognise the changing risk profile on your patch, such as greater number of at-risk groups and individuals being accommodated in more combustible, less resilient structures and demand the resources to sort this out.”
Jonathan O’Neill continued strongly “And to Government – get on with it. Yesterday [04/11/19] I heard they aren’t planning to introduce the legislation that will see Hackitt’s recommendations become law until the middle of next year, and the law will take about a year to get through the Parliamentary process. That is four years after Grenfell – it’s too long. I make the plea to Government, after the General Election whoever is in power – get on with it. Make the changes in building regulations that are so obvious they really don’t require further scrutiny. Mandate Third Party Certification, ban single staircases in tall buildings, install sprinklers and high integrity detection and evacuation systems and ban combustible materials in all high risk occupancies, regardless of a buildings height. This is not rocket science, so get on with it and get on with it immediately please.” This self-proclaimed ‘soapbox’ moment received a loud round of applause in agreement from the delegates before the plenary session could continue.
Chris Auger – BAFE Head of Schemes, who attended the event, commented “BAFE fully support and reiterate Jonathan O’Neill’s statement and demands to Government. An important factor here is to consider the entire life-cycle of buildings and their ongoing assessment for fire risk. The competency of fire risk assessors however continues to remain a largely unregulated and precarious market. BAFE introduced the SP205 Life Safety Fire Risk Assessment scheme in 2012, developed with the request from Government after the Lakanal House fire in 2009. The industry has regulatory procedures available, but whilst this remains voluntary only the overtly responsible providers are gaining third party certification to prove their competency in this realm. Big changes are required to ensure only competent providers are being used for the appropriate work. Construction and fire safety providers cannot let all of the excellent work done in the Competency Working Groups go to waste through inactivity from Government or the Industry!”