Leading safety body the British Safety Council has backed New Civil Engineer’s call for a national register to be set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Last month, New Civil Engineer called on the government to introduce a mandatory National Fire Risk Assessor Register. Since then there have been expressions of support from a number of organisations and individuals.
British Safety Council (BSC) fire safety consultant Keith Sillitoe said: “A National Fire Risk Assessor Register may be a good starting point to provide some assurance of competency.
“This would require qualification as well as measured competency.” He suggested the Fire Safety & Risk Management Certificate, as awarded by independent examination board NEBOSH, as “a nationally recognised qualification”.
The ICE has also leant its support. “Any initiative, such as this campaign, which drives public debate about safety, is to be welcomed, and we offer our good wishes for this campaign,” said a spokesperson.
The ICE has also offered its support to government and the Grenfell commission and has also instigated its own review.
Fire safety certificates
Until 2006 fire safety certificates were issued by local fire authorities. Institution of Fire Engineers chief executive officer Neil Gibbins explained that there had been a major change in attitudes and a wider involvement in managing risk since then.
“There were far fewer fire deaths in the country in recent years. Those responsible for fire safety must be competent, so I would urge all those acting as fire safety risk assessors to become registered.
“There are five recognised registers in the country, of which ours is the largest, at 230 registered assessors.”
Sillitoe, however, suggested that fire authorities should be brought back into the system specifically to certify high fire risk premises. These include social housing of more than four floors, hostels, houses in multiple occupation, and hotels and boarding houses with more than three floors.
He added: “It seems most unfair for senior executives to be appointed as the “Responsible Person” as defined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, when they clearly have no experience in fire safety engineering design, hence their reliance in fire safety contractors whose competency may well be questionable.”
And he warned of the risks that routine fire risk assessments could be seen as a “holistic remedy”.
“Surveying technical issues, such as fire alarm systems, fixed installations, escape routes, compartmentation, fire door specification and the fire resistance of building materials is beyond the competency of anyone other than qualified fire safety design engineers,” Sillitoe said.
Annual inspections by a registered fire risk assessor would have cost implications. Sources suggested that a “reasonable” fee for a Type 1 non-invasive inspection of the communal spaces of a residential tower block would be around £3,000 plus VAT.
Building safety: five steps
Step 1 Establish a government-backed National Fire Risk Assessor Register
Step 2 Make it mandatory for tall building owners to employ only assessors on the National Fire Risk Assessor Register to carry out assessments
Step 3 Require annual assessments to at least Type 1 level, and Type 2-4 level assessments as appropriate
Step 4 Require Fire Risk Assessment Reports to be put into the public realm
Step 5 Set minimum periods for essential remedial works to be completed