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Richard Paine is product marketing manager at Notifier, by Honeywell.
August 5, 2015

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The Video Surveillance Report 2021

Third-Party Accreditation: the Fast-Track to Fire-Protection Quality

Anyone familiar with the legal obligations surrounding fire safety in the UK will know about the pressures of being responsible for commercial premises or non-domestic buildings.

There is the need to keep people fully protected and ensure that the fire system is efficient and free of false alarms. Equally, in every organisation there are budgetary pressures that often make the lowest-cost option seem the most attractive.

In this context, quality can all too easily go out of the window. Unless, that is, the person deemed responsible for fire safety under the current Regulatory Reform (Fire Services) Order 2005 (RRO) remembers the obligations placed upon them.

The order makes it their duty to ensure that the life safety system provides the highest-quality coverage and that the designer and the installer of that system are competent. Indeed, the law will always include the question of quality in equipment, design, installation and maintenance.

If a serious fire breaks out on premises, for example, investigators will be looking for evidence that all reasonable protective measures have been taken and due diligence exercised. Cutting corners could result in prosecution and a criminal record.

In this context, it is foolhardy to neglect the simple safety net of third-party approvals, which gives a building operator near-complete transparency and helps ensure quality.

To achieve accreditation, companies must undergo an audit to prove that their product or service complies with established industry standards. In Europe, some of the highest profile third-party agencies include BRE and VDS for product approval, and BAFE and the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) for installation and maintenance.

All-important transparency

The system of third-party accreditation works to the end-user’s advantage by giving them the transparency with which to assess a designer, installer or maintainer of fire safety systems, as well as the products they use.

They will know for instance, that their fire alarm system only includes components that comply with EN 54 – the Europe-wide set of requirements which covers every facet of the network, including control panels, manual call-points, evacuation and detection devices and interface modules. Compliance is certified by approved bodies, including LPCB.

If a company has a third-party approval such as the BAFE standard SP203 it means its work in designing a fire system, installing or maintaining it, meets the required standard – a real bonus for any ‘responsible person’ conscious of their obligations.

Unfortunately, despite commissioning a third-party accredited fire protection system for their premises, some building operators make the mistake of using substandard, non-accredited maintenance contractors.

A key requirement of third-party accreditation is to have documented processes in place to ensure proper system maintenance and testing. This is designed ensure all necessary works are carried out to avoid deterioration in system performance due, for example, to dust and dirt to build up, and ensure a fire detection and alarm system is functioning as designed by full system testing at appropriate intervals.

This does happen even though the British standard BS5839 lays down explicit requirements for the testing of every automatic fire detection device.

By contrast, a reputable firm with third-party accreditation will carry out the full range of tests, as failure to do so leaves it open to losing its accreditation in an audit.

Crucially, it will also provide evidence that all necessary procedures have been followed, giving building operators that level of transparency that may be all-important in the event of a fire and subsequent investigation.

A further level of reassurance is made available by working with contractors and distributors that have good relationships with big-name manufacturers who have reputations to protect and provide regular updates on product and standards modifications.

Overall then, a building operator or responsible person should always insist that any fire protection company and its products come with documentary evidence to back up claims of accreditation, as a guarantee of meeting required standards.

When the system of third-party accreditation offers such a substantial degree of reassurance, why neglect it when there are severe penalties for cutting corners?

 

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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