Both BAFE and FireQual remember the Grenfell Tower fire and on this day would like to pay respects to all affected individuals of this disastrous event.
In BAFE’s remit to define competency of organisations working within the sector, this has a primary focus on life safety. Whilst damage limitation to the building is also desired, mitigating risk to life is the key factor here.
Recent developments following the fire have been steps in the right direction. The Building Safety Act following Royal Assent will now usher in stronger requirements for buildings to be safe, and importantly continue to remain safe, from fire. Duty Holders and Accountable Persons must evidence they have employed competent people in a way that is reasonably practicable. Stipulating appropriate UKAS accredited Third-Party Certification is in our opinion the best way to source an organisation with evidence of their competency.
Discussing social housing and building safety in the House of Commons last week (09/06/2022) Felicity Buchan, Conservative MP for Kensington, regarding the Grenfell tragedy said: “We are making progress, but there is more to be done. In my constituency, there are buildings where the remediation is still in progress. We need a sense of urgency in addressing every single building in the country that has fire safety defects. Every building needs to be properly assessed. It is important that we are proportionate in that fire risk assessment - it needs to be accurate and to reflect the real risks - but once we have it, we need to get on with the job of remediating the defects. I understand that, in London, approximately 1,100 buildings would require simultaneous evacuation, and we need to get on with the job of remediating them.” BAFE concurs with this statement and echoes our belief that a quality Fire Risk Assessment is crucial (performed by a competent person). However following this, any risk that can be mitigated or even removed must be addressed in a timely manner in the interest of life safety (using competent contractors where required).
It is also notable that with the scope of buildings featured in The Building Safety Act, Gateway 3 stresses the building may not be occupied until a certificate is issued by the Building Safety Regulator. This drives the construction sector to exercise best judgement at every stage of development to enable a smooth and safe transition to actual intended use.
Whilst many requirements of the new legislation will not come into effect until April 2023, it is important to begin working as if this is in effect now. This is due to the length of projects that will crossover this date, so it is in your best interest to, if not already, introduce a new regime regarding safe working and competency expectations behind this.
Both BAFE and FireQual have been suitably reactive to the sensible and practicable suggestions from Dame Judith Hackitt and subsequent committees and working groups that have been established following the fire. BAFE competency schemes already have requirements for key and named individuals to demonstrate their elevated competence (who in effect supervise other individuals), but this will be enhanced even further in forthcoming updates to the portfolio of BAFE competency schemes.
FireQual will also continue to develop new regulated qualifications to help individuals demonstrate their knowledge of a life safety discipline. This is one of the crucial elements that comes into play in establishing their capability in delivering these works.
The skills, knowledge, expertise, and behaviours of individuals working under the employment of BAFE registered organisations is a major area of attention. We must continue to be confident that these people are able to perform this work as safe as possible.
Now more than ever before is the right time to define competency and mandate a suitable level acceptable to work with life safety systems and services. We see demanding UKAS accredited Third-Party Certification as a clear and reasonably practicable action that would assist in putting an end to the unwelcome unregulated industry.