As the causes and implications of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower are being considered, there should be significant attention paid to the quality of fire risk assessments carried out at this and all other relevant, life risk premises. The reports following the major fires at Lakanal House, Rosepark care home in Scotland and many others have highlighted the need to start with a competent fire risk assessment and then keep it updated.
Despite the various National legislation requirements, which came into force over 10 years ago, changing the responsibility from the Fire and Rescue Services to the Responsible Person or Duty holder, there are still no statutory requirements for the competence of a Fire Risk Assessor, even in high risk premises. Whilst there can never be absolute certainty that even the most experienced Fire Risk Assessor will be able to inspect and analyse every part of the building’s construction – for example, there are parts that will be inaccessible when a building is completed and without extensive re-examination, material test reports have to be taken at face value, a competent Assessor will recognize and highlight any potential concerns.
David Sibert, an experienced fire fighter and qualified fire engineer who advises the Fire Brigades union told the BBC that the Government had failed to respond to demands from the fire industry to reform the system following the Lakanal House blaze. He indicated: "There are no controls on who can be a fire risk assessor or the competence or the skills that they should have."
Stuart Edgar, Chief Fire officer for Gloucestershire FRS and Chair of the Protection Committee of the National Fire Chiefs Council, speaking on ITV Tonight, said that they would encourage third party certification of fire risk assessors.
After the Lakanal House fire a Competency Council made up of experts from across the fire industry was established and produced a ‘Guide for Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor’ which is now available through the Fire Sector Federation. This highlighted the need for assessors to be qualified through a professional body and that companies providing the service should be third party certificated by a UKAS accredited certification body – even if they are a ‘one man band’. The largest of these company certification schemes is the BAFE SP205 register.
BAFE is the independent, not for profit organisation that creates schemes for the fire protection industry based on UK and European standards and best practice for third party certification. BAFE registration is only earned through annual compliance with the scheme requirements and the promotion of competence is our principle aim.
BAFE consider it imperative that genuine measures of competence for fire risk assessments are included as part of legislative requirements, even ahead of the any longer term revision of the Building Regulations, in order to help in identifying where there are potential life safety risks before there is another tragedy.