Association for Specialist Fire Protection

The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) has submitted its response and recommendations to the call for evidence from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The ASFP highlighted a series of initial recommendations for changes to legislation and guidance; it calls for a more concise suite of legislation; a mandatory sign off process at various stages in the construction process; as well as formal competency requirements for fire professionals, greater clarity in product testing and mandatory third party certification for fire safety products and installers of fire protection systems.

Click to download the full ASFP response.

The Association highlights a lack of understanding about how all the various strands of fire legislation fit together and the lack of distinction between legal requirements and guidance.

“There are differences between the Building Regulations and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) which causes discontinuities between compliance pre and post completion: these are two different sets of regulations operated by two different bodies trying to achieve fire safety at different stages of the building life.

“A system is needed that more clearly sets out the requirements and responsibilities at each stage, from original design and through the life of the building, including changes and refurbishments later in the building’s life,” says ASFP COO Niall Rowan.  

Explaining that there are numerous stakeholders involved in the design, commissioning, installation and approval of fire protection measures in buildings, the Association recommends a  mandatory ‘sign off’ process for stakeholders at various stages in the construction process and throughout the life of the building. This, says the ASFP, would greatly assist stakeholders’ consideration of their duties and would increase compliance.

Competency is also highlighted as a major issue with no current requirement for fire consultants; fire risk assessors or installers of fire protection to be trained, evaluated, licensed or included on any register. The ASFP also calls for a system of training, competency evaluation and qualification of all the major players in the construction supply chain and following occupation of the building.  The Association is working with the Institute of Fire Engineers to provide training and competency evaluation for all stakeholders to specifically address the qualification issue. The programme in development will enable trainees to obtain an IFE qualification in passive fire protection.

With poor installation an issue for construction in general, the Association also calls for more frequent inspection of installation work to ensure defects are discovered before it is too late and the relevant work closed up. The Association notes that a number of third party certification schemes for installers are available and recommends consideration is given to making them mandatory and more rigorous.

The Association also highlights the need for improvements in the quality assurance and testing of products and materials and calls for mandatory third party certification of fire protection products.

“The way in which building products and installations are tested, certificated and the documentation used to support products in the market is confusing to the lay person, giving rise to confusion and inappropriate specification, procurement and approval,” says Mr Rowan.

“The system is not robust or reliable because it relies upon claims made in a morass of fire test reports, assessments and certification, often all on the same product. Those specifying or approving products don’t have the skills, knowledge or the time to examine the supporting documentation with sufficient rigor.

“Third Party Certification of products provides the relevant information in a much more accessible way and consequently makes the evaluation of the performance for all stakeholders easier. Consideration should be given to making it mandatory.”

The Association is working with a number of stakeholders to address many of the concerns it has raised. Working together with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the ASFP has begun developing a Plan of Works for Fire Protection which complements the existing RIBA work plan methodology, used by UK architects to manage and plan the building design and construction process.

The ‘Plan of Works’ aims to ensure that there is a detailed specification for fire protection at the design stage and a schedule for fire throughout the construction process. It assigns at the earliest possible stage optimum engagement times for consultants and contractors to help develop an appropriate fire strategy. The process being developed will include a sign off process as construction progresses, with all information reaching the end-user to support adequate fire risk management.