BAFE, the independent register of quality fire-safety service providers, discuss the importance of fire safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Inside Housing’s deputy editor, Peter Apps, recently published an article titled ‘Fire safety work remains essential – even in the new reality’ (03/04/2020). In this he stated: ‘Both [short term and long term fire safety] activities constitute essential work which must continue throughout the lockdown as far as possible… The work to make buildings safe was always essential and, even in the new reality we find ourselves in, nothing has changed.’
Buildings need to remain safe in all aspects of life safety regardless of any circumstances. At the time of writing this (07/04/2020) there has been no guidance issued from the government stating any temporary changes to fire-safety legislation. This in fact has heightened the necessity to ensure all fire-safety measures are relevant at present, as many premises have changed in the way they are used in reaction to the coronavirus protective measures – prompting a requirement to review fire-risk assessments.
County Councils and Fire and Rescue Services are noting this in their fire-safety advice in response to coronavirus. For example, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service published information (25/03/2020) advising: ‘businesses to review fire risk assessments following the Prime Minister’s announcement to restrict movement and close businesses.’
Matt White, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue fire safety lead, said: ‘Compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is still of utmost importance to protect businesses and people from fire. For those businesses open, simple tests to check the escape route is clear and accessible at all times must be completed as well as measures to ensure there are adequately trained staff on site at all times.’
Norfolk County Council have also recently stated: ‘All businesses should review their Fire Risk assessment and Emergency Plan in light of the impact of Covid-19 on their staffing levels, operating times, business processes and evacuation arrangements.’
UK Fire readers from the fire-safety industry and firefighting professionals alike know due diligence is required when sourcing a provider to help competently fulfil these fire-safety obligations. Whilst UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended in government guidance documents and by Fire and Rescue Services across the UK.
‘Third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and related services are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products [and services] may lack… Third-party quality assurance can offer comfort both as a means of satisfying you that goods and services you have purchased are fit for purpose, and as a means of demonstrating that you have complied with the law.’ – Fire safety risk assessment: offices and shops (Government guidance document)
The latest campaign from the BAFE Fire Safety Register, Don’t just Specify, Verify! points out an important second, and sometimes overlooked, verification stage when specifying a competent Third Party Certificated provider to help premises management comply with fire-safety legislation.
‘As noted in Government guidance, specifying Third Party Certification is a robust method of sourcing a competent provider to help you fulfil your fire safety obligations. However, there is still an onus on the premises management [Responsible Person/Duty Holder] to check that their chosen providers are appropriately Third Party Certificated and competent for the work required. If you specify a Third Party Certificated provider, but don’t verify this before awarding a contract, this could result in insufficient fire safety in your building and makes you accountable under current legislation. It is easy and quick to check, which helps towards a safer building and, in the event of a fire, stronger defence having acted with due diligence.’ – Stephen Adams, Chief Executive, BAFE.
UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification within the fire industry is voluntary (at present). This means that any provider who has achieved this has taken intentional steps to gain independently assessed certification, demonstrating their competency for a specific service. Premises managers wouldn’t use an unregistered gas engineer, so why should their fire-safety requirements be treated any differently?
BAFE continue to promote to the public, specifiers and end users of the fire-safety industry on the value of Third Party Certification in the interest of life and building safety. The culture of chasing the lowest quote for fire-safety work must end, focusing instead on sourcing evidentially competent, independently assessed providers to get the job done right. As with most things, quality comes with a cost, but the cost of a fire with poor fire-safety management could be far more disastrous. Make sure you specify Third Party Certificated fire-safety service providers and verify they are appropriately certificated for the service you require. It’s a quick and simple action, but incredibly important – www.bafe.org.uk/Dont-Just-Specify-Verify-Third-Party-Certification