Current affairs

safety arrangement disassembled’. A competency framework produced pre Grenfell was amended and adapted, with the Industry Response Group (IRG) and Competency Steering Group (CSG) set up alongside 12 working groups, following Dame Judith’s competency-specific recommendations. All groups are ‘busily developing competency from different perspectives’, and the FSF has a presence on 11. Mr Davis expanded on ‘where we’ve been and where we’re going’, noting there has been ‘quite a bit of influence’ from the fire sector on competency, with the Industry Safety Steering Group – chaired by Dame Judith – scrutinising the IRG and working groups to ensure the construction and fire industries develop competency along the right lines. It is ‘difficult to identify’ what the cohesive message

would be, with high risk residential buildings the initial focus. The FSF’s key points included statutory regulations, as ‘the problems started because they were voluntary’, and ‘a lot got lost’. Secondly, it was ‘apparent’ that ‘certain groups’ have a ‘fundamental lack of understanding of fire science and fire prevention’, so it was easy to see where compromises have been made. The FSF’s third point was that third party certification

on assessments, with the Fire Test Study Group’s guidelines set up in 1993 after concerns over assessments being opinion based, so that there was a ‘need for order’. In 2001, the Passive Fire Protection Federation

(PFPF) produced a guide to assessments ‘in lieu of fire tests’, which featured levels of complexity of assessment, assessor levels and what they can do, and ‘strict requirements’ on quality and impartiality. Should a test’s sponsor acknowledge it had failed, they must withdraw the assessment, and include five year reviews and codes of conduct. While ‘well developed’, it was not mandatory, was not used outside laboratories and was ‘dated’. This year, the European Group of Official

Laboratories for Fire brought together a similar document, while the BS EN 45725 standard has been earmarked for alignment, as it covers extended application. The government’s consultation results are expected, and were hoped for – at the time – ahead of Christmas. The PFPF is also revising its guide, and one possible future might see only notified bodies doing assessments. However, in Mr Rowan’s opinion, the use of accreditation or certification schemes for assessors ‘would be undone’, though currently there is no UKAS accreditation ‘for opinions’.

Competence updates

With competency a key element of Dame Judith’s report, the Fire Sector Federation’s (FSF’s) Dennis Davis gave background on concerns arising from Grenfell, adding that we are ‘often seeing good fire

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was needed for people and products, as these were ‘both as important as one another’, with process weaknesses key to tackle. At this time, there is a ‘bit of a conundrum’ between professions and trades, with both sides already either third party or UKAS accredited, but not necessarily in alignment. This can be resolved by an accredited third party

process – ‘crucial as a wrap around’ alongside the generalised ideas of roles, responsibilities and ethics, as well as professionalism. The next part being worked on was presenting competency to the public, and Mr Davis added that ‘make no mistake, we need to be able to answer if asked whether the building is safe’, as current linear thinking does not match up with real world complexity. With RIBA and others including fire safety in plans of works for construction, now was the time to ensure everything ‘needs to hang together’.

Governmental view

Brian Martin from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) gave an overview of the building safety programme and plans going forward for regulatory overhaul. Interventions immediately after Grenfell included assembling experts, implementing the ACM test programme, and forming the expert panel and IRG. In turn, the speed of this process was ‘not the

civil service I know’, and he moved on to discuss the Hackitt Review’s timeline. On its 53 recommendations, he was ‘cynical of changes in the construction industry’, having worked in it for some time, but hoped that government commitment would be shared by the sector.

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