“There’s a conflict of interest between design and construction”: FIA CEO Ian Moore on competence, Grenfell and Brexit

Jenna Kamal

Copywriter, UBM’s Protection & Management series, (LinkedIn profile)

Author Bio ▼

Jenna Kamal is the copywriter for UBM’s Protection & Management series including IFSEC International and FIREX International. Prior to this, she was a property, finance and technology blogger within the FinTech and PropTech space.
November 1, 2018

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In a recent FIREX International webinar, Ian Moore, CEO of the FIA, presented findings from the 10th FIA Market Condition Review.

The review revealed, among other things, that enquiries for goods and services post-Grenfell have grown strongly, exacerbating further a skills crisis in fire engineering. Wave 10 of the Market Conditions Survey is the latest biannual snapshot of trends in the UK fire sector.

In the Q&A that followed the webinar, Ian Moore replied to questions from attendees on ‘grandfather rights’, Brexit, FIA training and whether recommendations made in the Hackitt Review are likely to be implemented.

IFSEC Global: Why have ‘grandfather rights’ not been given on the foundation modules?

Ian Moore: I’m sure you all know what grandfather rights are, but I’ll explain them just in case. Basically, when people have 20-30 years’ experience in a particular industry, they don’t feel like they need more qualifications.

Put me on that list… I thought I knew everything about fire detection and alarm systems, but then I sat these exams – without doing the training – and failed them! We’re probably not as good as we think we are, especially when understanding the latest regulations.

I’ve gone through about four changes of BS 5839 – and all changes came with different requirements. This is about bringing people bang up to date in every area.

We tried doing the tests and most of us failed them without doing the training first. So we do need to stick with the training – and with a pass, we can define competency in this area for the first time.

IG: Why is FIA training now so difficult?

IM: We’ve had a lot of failures since we moved over to the new qualification system. It is nationally recognised and we have to conform to the requirement of OFQUAL. We give Level 3 exams – some have put it on a par with A-Levels, but I don’t think it’s that high.

We’ve taken five years to get it into place and it’s driven by the industry asking us – via our members – to raise the bar of professionalism in our industry. And the kickback comes from the fact that people are failing as the exams are no longer ‘open book’ as they were in the previous style.

We need the fire safety industry to value competency – the popular word in Dame Judith’s review – by demanding it at every level

We have invigilators in and questions randomly electronically chosen at the time of the exam. We need the fire safety industry to stand strong and value competency – the popular word in Dame Judith’s review – by demanding it at every level.

One thing I feel I need to emphasise is that we’re a not-for-profit organisation and are purely focused on improving fire safety. Any profit that does come at year end is reinvested into research projects, so we are not doing this to make more money, which I have often heard.

We’re not strengthening exams to make sure people fail; it’s an effect of raising the bar of professionalism. However, once you pass you can truly make the statement to say that you’re qualified.

IG: Do you think all of Dame Hackitt’s recommendations will be implemented?

IM: The short answer is: no. The government showed its teeth a little bit with Gas Safe. Look at the number of people who die in fires compared to gas – you think it would be right to have ‘Fire Safe’-registered engineers?

There’s lots of conflict of interest between the designing and building stages of structures that needs sorting out. The government wants to reduce red tape in construction – well gaps happen once you remove mandating of certain, vital safety activities.

The FIA sat on four out of six working groups in the Hackitt Review to try and guide as necessary the views of the industry. And we still stand strongly behind pushing for third-party certification of people and companies.

Look at Lakanal House: six people lost their lives, the government said it was the worst tower block fire in recent years, but nothing ever happened

We like to think that some of it was heard, but we don’t know whether it will be implemented. Look at Lakanal House: six people lost their lives, the government said it was the worst tower block fire in recent years, but nothing ever happened. Maybe Grenfell will get them to listen and actually do something about it. We cross our fingers and we keep pushing for change.

IG: What areas outside of the EU would you recommend UK fire companies target for new export trade?

IM: It’s all about Brexit, isn’t it? The EU is our biggest market – and will continue to be so – and we need to ensure we’re ready for it. One of the big issues at the moment is CE markings, CPR, third-party accreditation etc on products, with many ‘could and should’ statements – but nothing definitive – from BSI and certification bodies.

But to answer your question, moving outside the EU, I think South Africa is a good opportunity right now. I have just returned from leading a trade mission there with UK Government DIT support. We need to be looking at people with the same values we have around the world.

I think everyone knows that Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, UAE etc have high levels of professionalism and use some relevant British standards as a base starting point, which gives us a good starting point. Emerging markets like Brazil and Turkey are good opportunities too (again, recent missions there have shown we need to explore further).

Prices are very focused in China and India so will always be a challenge. The more difficult ones are the US and Canada as they’re very attuned to their own standards – it’s not wrong, but it’s different.

It’s utterly driven by codes, which we don’t naturally comply to. There are many opportunities but the Brexit deal, whatever happens, will define how we move forward with export.

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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