This autumn we enter yet another important improvement phase for building safety. Dame Judith Hackitt’s proposals, captured after her independent review of the inadequate situation existing prior to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy has, precipitated many such actions. These included encouraging industry to self-motivate its own progress; something that has resonated strongly with fire risk assessors.
The baseline controls for fire risk assessment go back a decade before the fire being set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). The government has progressively sought to improve the building safety landscape, including the FSO, with further requirements under the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.
Likewise industry, working together, has and continues to drive improvement. In the critical area of fire risk assessment the focus is on standards and competency starting by reasserting the foundation principle that fire risk assessor competency should have independent third-party accreditation; for both companies and individuals offering services.
Industry’s fire risk assessor sector immediately recognised that being able to demonstrate competency would become a fundamental requirement across all built environment sectors and therefore embarked to collectively and continuously work to deliver a comprehensive programme of fire risk assessor competency standards to enhance public fire safety.
Based within the internationally acknowledged context of accredited conformity assessment fire risk assessor sector members last year created an Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors. The standard details specific competency requirements for fire risk assessors progressively raising competency across three tiers to meet more and more complex risks.
Set to be used within United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited schemes, the Benchmark Standard’s three tiers aim to support both end users, like the Responsible Person, find a suitable assessor for their needs while also providing a career pathway for professional development.
The members creating the Benchmark Standard also recognised the importance of facilitating transitional arrangements for experienced workers holding existing appropriate occupational qualifications and experience. The Standard’s design is fully adaptable to assist this transition given there are many existing FSO proficient fire risk assessment processes to incorporate.
In the near future the Benchmark Standard will start development as a British Standard, part of the BS 8670 Built Environment – Core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks.
All this is highly relevant given Sub-section 156 (4) of the Building Safety Act will eventually commence placing a legal duty is placed on Responsible Persons not to appoint a person to assist them, with making or reviewing a fire risk assessment under the FSO, unless that person is competent. Fire risk assessors, working on whatever premises this law applies to, will then need to meet whatever assured conformity statement of competency is specified.
The route to demonstrating competency as a fire risk assessor is therefore much clearer; individuals will have to show conformity to regulated standards. The fire sector working group with others progressing this work encourages all with an interest to engage now!
The Fire Risk Assessors Working Group is that has produced the Benchmark Standard is supported by the Fire Sector Federation.
Those wishing to learn more about fire risk assessment should visit the Federation’s dedicated web page https://www.firesectorfederation.co.uk/fire-risk-assessment/ which lists fire risk assessor schemes with contact details or contact the Federation [email protected]