Avatar photo

Project Engineer, UL

June 25, 2021


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Building safety

Competence – A fundamental part of building safety

In this second article of two, Simon Ince highlights why it is important to have a focus on safety within occupied buildings and offers some thought on best practices to ensure competency is maintained from those involved.

Find the first article here: Building Safety Managers – The future for compliance?

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of construction and occupation of buildings, one major focus of work has been improving the competence of those who contribute to the delivery of safe buildings. From those who design, construct and approve buildings to those who operate existing buildings, competence is essential to ensure the final occupants are as safe as can reasonably be expected.

There should be an appropriate level of functional safety designed into a building; approving that design and signing off on the final construction (which should match the approved design) are key to getting safety right. However, many individuals are involved in that process and each must play a careful part in working together to deliver safe buildings. If there are competence issues throughout the process, errors upon errors can occur and evade detection. These errors, if not spotted, could lead to dangerous, and potentially life-threatening situations – for example in the event of a fire.


Training as part of the competency process

Training is one area we have had many requests for help with, and although those requests revolve mainly around the competence of installers of different safety features, both active and passive, the approach we generally take is the same. This approach is to find out what each person is expected to do for their job.

Training for the competences you need to do the job at hand may sound like an obvious principle, but when you consider the plethora of training courses and qualifications available, are they all offering what is needed? Once you have established exactly what the person does or is expected to do, then you have a measure to hold up against existing course syllabi, or to aid in the development of bespoke training.

Learning the theory of how a fire door is constructed, manufactured and supplied, and what it should look like when installed correctly, will not mean the individual attending the course is able to install a fire door set correctly. This is not just a case of theory versus practice; it can be more subtle than that. If, for example, part of an employee’s job is procurement of fire safety products and systems; understanding the critical function of those products and what test and certification evidence is required to support them, is part of the job and needs to be learnt.

So how can you get training right? Take a rational look at what is needed and how to achieve it by asking some simple questions.

  • What do employees do, or what do you want them to do? Fit the training to their duties.
  • Bespoke or standard? Look for a course that already exists to match their needs and check the content does indeed meet the requirements.
  • In-house or external? If there is not already an existing course, think about who could develop and deliver one.
  • What level of study? Try to think about the level of understanding needed and how that fits into a standard competence matrix. Can you really be an expert on the back of a one-day course?
  • Does it need to be practical or theoretical, or both? Try to focus on the job description. If it involves installing a fire door, for example, the training needs to include fitting fire doors and not just the theory of fitting them.
  • What validation does the training have? Is the training industry-backed, or can it be validated by an independent third party, such as a trade association or professional body?
  • What additional training or self-study is required? The course is over, so they must be good to go, right? Wrong! If knowledge is to embed within a person, it needs to be supported and reinforced.
  • What needs to be done to check understanding? To confirm the key information is embedded, there needs to be some form of check on learning. Peer review of their understanding and post training work for example.
  • How do we record learning? The physical act of keeping good records of training and learning is very important, to support competence sign-off. You should continuously keep professional development records up to date, with both the learner and employer acknowledging what the training was, what was learnt and how that fits with their responsibilities.

UL continues to support the drive here in the UK for improved standards by offering independent testing, inspection, training and certification services.

Connect with the fire safety community online 1-30 June

Connect 2021 is your first major opportunity to come together with the fire safety community online from 1-30 June!

FIREX Connect, the month-long online event, will give attendees the opportunity to make up for lost time by browsing fire safety solutions, connecting with suppliers and getting up-to-date on the latest legislation from the comfort of your home.

Related Topics

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments