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BAFE Response to Scottish Government Fire Safety Consultation
Wednesday 8th March 2017
BAFE responded to the recent consultation from the Scottish Government 'Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Existing Non-Residential Premises' to help develop a safer Scotland from fire in non-domestic buildings.
Please see below submitted response in full:
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BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment)
Response to the Consultation: Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Existing Non-Residential Premises
1.1 BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Scottish Government's Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Existing Non-Residential Premises. BAFE notes that a further consolidated set of Guidance is to be produced concerning premises which include sleeping accommodation. In that regard BAFE draws the Scottish Government's attention to a CFOA guidance document which has just been published as a draft for public comment entitled Fire Safety in Specialised Housing.
1.2 BAFE notes that instances of fire in commercial premises remain at a relatively low level historically and that injuries have declined in recent years but believes that there is no room for complacency and latent threats exist which could and should be eliminated by improved fire risk assessment and better inspection as was recently amply demonstrated in the Cole report on Edinburgh schools (Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools February 2017)
2.1 British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) is the independent, not for profit registration body for third party certified fire protection companies across the UK. BAFE develops schemes to support quality standards for fire protection companies to achieve and become third party certified.
2.2 BAFE effectively helps to connect people who need fire protection services and large national, smaller regional and small local businesses who deliver such services to the same high quality standards.
2.3 BAFE wishes to stress that it is not responding to the Consultation for reasons of economic benefit as the financial impact of its recommendations will be neutral as regards its own not for profit business.
3.1 BAFE believes that the legislative framework established by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 is fit for purpose. BAFE draws attention to the findings of Sheriff Lockhart's report on the tragic Rosepark nursing home fire of 2004 and notes the contents of the debate in the Scottish Parliament in December 2004 led by Michael McMahon MSP. BAFE has been involved in discussions on improving fire safety at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's Business Engagement Forum and with Martyn Emberson QFSM, Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. BAFE also took part in the Regulatory Review Group committee which reported and made recommendations on the working of the 2005 Act in December 2015
3.2 BAFE looks for the recommendations in the RRG committee report and in the BRE (British Research Establishment) report 'Live investigations of false fire alarms' https://www.bre.co.uk/filelibrary/Briefing%20papers/107086-False-Alarms-Briefing-Paper--WEB-.pdf on the reduction of Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals to be implemented. Such actions will ensure that the public sector in particular does not waste resources mainly the time of Scottish Fire Rescue Service when responding to false alarms. The resources saved should be reinvested by the SFRS in other aspects of fire prevention. Comments in Q4.3 below amplify this objective.
3.3 BAFE is particularly interested to see the introduction of a requirement for duty holders to use fire risk assessors whose competence is assured by third party certification. BAFE wishes to reduce the risk of fire thereby saving lives, cutting injuries and avoiding economic damage. As regards the last point many companies suffering a fire never fully recover and some go out of business. A competent fire risk assessment will undoubtedly mean the minimisation of all of the above.
3.4 But what does the term 'Third Party Certification' actually mean for somebody seeking a provider? In simple terms, first party certification means a provider tells his potential customer that he is competent and knows what he is doing. Second party certification involves someone else – for instance another customer or a trade association – who states that they are competent. Third Party Certification takes this to another level completely, as in such circumstances an independent Certification Body which is accredited by the Government recognised national accreditation body UKAS, sends assessors trained in the specific skills required and working to appropriate standards, to inspect the company usually on an ongoing annual basis. They check and verify the required competencies and management systems to ensure that the provider can do what they say.
3.5 BAFE develops third party certification schemes with a range of industry stakeholders and works only with UKAS accredited Certification Bodies to approve companies to these standards through rigorous ongoing assessment to the relevant standards.
3.6 BAFE's schemes include:
- Life Safety Fire Risk Assessment SP205
- Contract Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers incorporating Registered Fire Extinguisher Service Technicians’ SP101/ST104 (Currently under review to become ‘Competency of Portable Fire Extinguisher Organisations and Technicians SP101:2017’)
- Fire Detection and Alarm Systems SP203-1
- Emergency Lighting Systems SP203-4
- Fixed Gaseous Suppression Systems SP203-3
Q1.1 BAFE thinks that the proposed Guidance document is generally well set out. Its structure is clear for the most part and the content appears to be comprehensive.
Q1.2 We would suggest that bullet points could detail the contents of chapters two and three to improve accessibility for example:
Chapter 2: ASSESSMENT OF FIRE RISK IN PREMISES
- Identify People at Risk
- Identify Causes of Fire
- Evaluate the risk
- Decide if existing fire safety measures are adequate
- Implement Improvements
- Record the findings
- Review the assessment
Chapter 3: THE PERSONS IN THE PREMISES
- Occupancy load factor of a room or space by use
- Transport Premises
Q1.3 BAFE has one general concern that the coverage of the Guidance should incorporate all the contents of the five superseded Guides. Consolidation is welcome but not at the cost of significant omissions. Accordingly BAFE has tried to alert colleagues in the fire industry whose specific expertise is in the areas of these Guides which are:
- Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Educational and Day Care for Children Premises: February 2008
- Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Places of Entertainment and Assembly: December 2007
- Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Factories and Storage Premises: February 2008
- Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Offices, Shops and Similar Premises: February 2008
- Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Transport Premises: February 2008
Q2.1 BAFE believes that changes need to be made to the paragraphs in the Consultation on fire risk assessment. The proposed Guidance is a golden opportunity that must not be missed to improve the standard of fire risk assessments and to reduce unwanted fire alarm signals as BAFE envisages that once finalised and published it will not be revisited for some years.
Q2.2 BAFE does not believe that the FireLaw website should be the sole location in which duty holders are advised about third party certification of the competence of fire risk assessors but that it should be on the face of the Guidance. A reader of the Guidance would not necessarily divert to the website which furthermore is not especially easy to use. At the very least there should be a copy of the FireLaw website section in an appendix in the Guidance but that would only be a minimal improvement.
Q2.3 As to the concern that the Guidance might become outdated a qualification could be entered into the text of the Guidance to say that the on-line rather than printed version of the Guidance might be updated from time to time as well as the FireLaw website and should therefore be consulted by users.
Q2.4 Accordingly BAFE proposes the following amendments to the Guidance in various paragraphs as shown below. Additions and amendments to the text are in bold italics:
“15. It can be difficult to judge the competence of companies and persons who advertise their services as fire risk assessors. The fact that a person or company is operating in the fire sector or that someone has previous fire service experience, does not mean that they are a competent fire safety specialist.”
“16. Where duty holders seek external assistance, they should satisfy themselves with the credentials of external consultants. A good way to judge competence is to check whether the company or person chosen to carry out fire risk assessment work is third party certificated by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited Certification Body. Third Party Certification means that an independent Certification Body sends assessors trained in the specific skills required and working to appropriate standards, to inspect the company usually on an on-going annual basis. They check and verify the required competencies and management systems to ensure that the provider can do what they say they can do.”
“17. Fire Risk Assessment Certification schemes in existence at the time of the publication of this document are:
- BAFE – SP205 Fire Risk Assessment
- Exova Warrington fire – two schemes, one for organisations and another for personnel
- IFC Certification Ltd. - IFCC 0099 Fire Risk Assessor Certification
The online version of this Guidance will be updated from time to time when developments in third party certification occur as will the pages on the FireLaw web pages. Developments may include new or revised schemes. Readers of this Guidance may wish to check and see if updates have been made.
Third party certification removes the risk of reliance solely upon the assessor's own judgement of his or her competence. It will help establish a company or person's credentials and may also be useful as a part of a due diligence audit trail for a duty holder and in securing insurance.”
“40. Fire safety risk assessment is a practical exercise aimed at evaluating the risk from fire and how to ensure the safety of persons in the event of fire. It involves an organised and methodical look at the premises, the activities within the premises, the type of occupants, the potential for a fire to occur and the harm it could cause to people. The existing fire safety measures are evaluated to establish whether they are adequate or if more requires to be done. In this respect, fire safety measures include not just physical measures, such as fire alarm systems and escape routes, but also standards of management. Such complexity reinforces the points made in paragraphs 15 and 16 about selecting a competent person to carry out a fire risk assessment and the comfort that duty holders can obtain by selecting an assessor whose competence is validated by third party certification.”
“56. The fire safety risk assessment should be reviewed regularly and also before any significant or relevant changes are made or if relevant safety issues arise. This will involve setting time aside to consider whether change has affected the risk and whether fire safety measures remain appropriate. The advice of a properly qualified fire risk assessor whose competence is third party certificated will be useful in carrying out a review.”
“59. Reviews of a risk assessment can be carried out in-house by the premises' management. This will reinforce ownership of fire safety management and assist in the development of relevant knowledge and of a fire safety culture. However where a fire risk assessor has been employed to carry out the initial assessment it will be advisable to inform him or her of the in-house review where it has been triggered by a significant change in the premises.”
Q2.5 BAFE recognises that the Scottish Government is reluctant to make recommendations as to the competence of professionals. However at least one precedent in a related field exists where the Scottish Government offers advice as to competence. A Competent Person who can carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report is clearly defined in Statutory Guidance on Electrical Installations and Appliances in Private Rented Property. A copy of the relevant page is appended to this submission.
Q2.7 BAFE also draws attention to paragraph 119 in which discussion of third party certification for products and services is discussed. Fire risk assessment is as much a service as is for example, the maintenance of fire extinguishers, the design, installation and maintenance of fire alarm systems, emergency lighting and gaseous fire suppression systems. Accordingly BAFE sees no reason for the Scottish Government to be diffident about signposting competence in fire risk assessment.
Q2.8 BAFE suggests two changes as in bold italics to the text of paragraph 119 to strengthen the reference for duty holders:
THIRD PARTY CERTIFICATION
“118. Other than where work is exempt, any work to a building must comply with the building regulations irrespective of whether or not a building warrant is required. Building regulations require that materials, fittings, and components used should be suitable for their purpose, correctly used or applied, and sufficiently durable.”
“119. Fire protection products should be fit for purpose and properly installed and maintained, while installation and maintenance contractors should be competent. Third-party certification, where a reputable certification body independently checks competencies and processes and that standards are being met, is a sound method of providing a reasonable assurance of quality of products and services, provided that the certification body itself is a competent evaluator. Accreditation by UKAS is an indication that a third-party certification body is a competent evaluator. Products and services that are not third-party approved by an accredited body are not necessarily less reliable, but accredited third-party certification can offer assurance. Duty holders are well advised to ask as to whether a product or service is third party certificated and to enquire if not why not.”
Q3.1 BAFE is in the main proposing amplification or clarification of areas in the text of the proposed Guidance.
Q3.2 However BAFE refers to the concerns expressed in Q1.3 as to whether the proposed Guidance covers all of the points in the five superseded Guides.
Q3.3 BAFE observes that references are omitted to third party certification of, and sources of information on, specific products which could be referred to in the text of this Guidance, (as described later in this submission under the subheadings of Question 4) and in more detail on the FireLaw website.
Comments are set out below under the side headings:
Q4.1 BAFE stresses that the Scottish Government should promote awareness among duty holders of the requirement to have a fire risk assessment. An awareness campaign linked to the publication of the eventual form of this Guidance is essential to save lives and to reduce injuries and economic loss. There is not much point in improving the competence of fire risk assessors and potentially reducing risk from fires by promoting duty holders' use of third party certificated installers if large numbers of duty holders are ignorant of the law.
Q4.2 BAFE suggests that there are a number of business organisations that would willingly assist in promoting awareness given a steer by the Scottish Government. Contact could also be made with CoSLA to request that local authorities include a public information flyer within annual rates demand notice letters.
Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals
Q4.3 BAFE wishes to emphasise the desirability of the Scottish Government taking a lead on reducing Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS). The sections on UFAS in the Regulatory Review Group's report made clear that work in this area is essential. The RRG report paid specific attention to unwanted fire alarms in the health sector. A further reference to costs can be found in information provided by the National Association of Healthcare Fire Officers. It is perhaps sobering that advice has been readily available in this area since 2006. 'Firecode – fire safety in the NHS - Health Technical Memorandum 05-03: Operational provisions Part H: Reducing unwanted fire signals in healthcare premises'. http://www.nahfo.com/HTM/05-03H.pdf
Q4.4 BAFE considers that the Scottish Government has a key role in stimulating the whole of the public sector in Scotland to take UFAS seriously and to introduce avoidance measures especially in view of constraints' in public expenditure.
Q4.5 The text in the Guidance in paragraphs 335 to 339 is comprehensive. However BAFE suggests the addition of the phrase “from a competent contractor” at the end of paragraph 336.
Q4.6 BAFE proposes an addition to paragraph 313 to reinforce the text in paragraph 337:
“313. A hinged cover on the call point can be a deterrent where there is the potential for malicious operation or accidental damage. Hinged covers help to reduce instances of unwanted fire alarm signals.”
What does paragraph 103 mean?
Q4.7 BAFE draws attention to the second part of paragraph 103 of the Guidance. This appears to refer to parents of school pupils employed in nurseries and schools. It could perhaps be clearer and should also cover volunteers. There are many parents who help out on an unpaid basis and are not technically employed. Also there are increasing numbers of volunteers who are not parents in schools especially given the growth in corporate social responsibility engagement by businesses. It would seem invidious to inform employed parents but not those volunteering on a long term basis or outside visitors attending schools on more than a one day visit. The National Schools Partnership in Edinburgh and other organisations may be able to offer advice in this area. An amendment is suggested in bold italics:
“103. Fire safety law specifically requires that information on risks and fire safety measures be notified to workers in the premises from outside agencies or undertakings and their employers; and to the parents of any child not over school age who may be employed to work on the premises or volunteers in schools who are on the premises on consecutive days.”
Emergency lighting paragraphs 284 to 295
Q4.8 BAFE does not have the competence to comment in detail on technical matters relating to emergency lighting. Attention is however drawn to the fact that as in other areas many emergency lighting products are third party certificated which can help duty holders assess quality and fitness for purpose.
Alarm Receiving Centres - ARCs
Q4.9 BAFE wishes to suggest an addition to paragraph 334 as below in bold italics.
“334. With remote monitoring, the actuation of the fire warning system causes a signal to be transmitted automatically to a remote alarm receiving centre (ARC). On receipt of a signal, the ARC then calls the Fire and Rescue Service. It is recommended that duty holders should check to assure themselves that the quality of the technology of the ARC to which they are to be connected is third party certificated. Duty holders may care to enquire whether the ARC to which their alarm is to be connected complies to Euro Standard BSEN50518 (MARC)”
Automatic Life Safety Fire Suppression
Q4.10 At the end of paragraph 344 BAFE proposes and additional sentence to advise users of the Guidance that many products in this area are third party certificated:
“Many suppression systems are third party certificated which helps to validate their efficacy and reliability.”
Fire Fighting Equipment for Use by Persons
Q4.11 BAFE proposes an additional sentence in paragraph 348 again to emphasise that many products are third party certificated which affords a strong measure of assurance as to their quality:
“A measure of quality assurance for fire fighting equipment is to check whether it has been third party certificated in other words its quality, capability and reliability has been verified by an independent qualified person, organisation or company.”
The changes to the Guidance which BAFE is proposing do not conflict with the PBRIA. Whilst there is a case for compulsion in the training of fire risk assessors BAFE has not proposed such a course of action in this response. Were that to have been the case there would have been marginal impacts in economic terms relating to the cost of the training and recovery of such in charges from duty holders.
However compulsory third party certification of the competence of fire risk assessors may become necessary if standards do not improve. Strengthening the advice in this Guidance is a step in the right direction but as the recent Cole report on Edinburgh schools made clear there is no room for complacency in fire safety matters in Scotland. No-one wants to see another disaster such as the Rosepark Nursing Home fire but BAFE fears that another such incident is inevitable if there are not major improvements in the practice of fire safety in the future.
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