Security market analyst

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Hunter Seymour is a security market analyst with expertise in both the fire and security markets.
March 31, 2022

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IFSEC Interviews

Checkpoint for risk: CROSS-UK’s role in collaborative reporting for critical fire safety concerns

In a year when FIREX International opens (May 17 2022) on the fourth anniversary of the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, it is timely to review the greater scope for prioritising building safety she recommends to dutyholders, and the wider issues surrounding the creation of the ‘Golden Thread’ of key fire risk information.

Neil Gibbins, Lead Fire Safety Consultant for CROSS-UK

Here, Hunter Seymour speaks to Neil Gibbins, Lead Fire Safety Consultant for CROSS-UK (Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK), to find out how the group is working to provide a safe space for those who want to report safety critical information they find, to prevent future failures.

In short, CROSS-UK provides a system of confidential ‘incident reporting’ to improve the knowledge pool and encourage the virtuous circle of learning that the Hackitt Report endorses as a scheme to achieve enhanced levels of data quality – ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time. Let’s hear from Neil though, who can explain exactly what it does and what fire safety professionals need to know.

 

IFSEC Global (IG): Can you give us a brief overview of the origination of CROSS-UK and the early initiatives?

Neil Gibbins (NG): CROSS has been in operation for over 15 years, but, until recently, was focused on structural safety issues. Created by a group known as SCOSS (the Standing Committee on Structural Safety), the leading thinkers from IStructE (Institution of Structural Engineers) and ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) recognised that there could be great benefits achieved by organising a route for people to share learning in a safe, independent, non-judgmental process.

CROSS has recently been relaunched with a new website and scope. Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures is the full name, reflecting the wider remit that now includes fire safety. Significant investment by the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) – now Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – Building Safety Programme team has facilitated a complete refresh of the website and engagement with the fire sector; the impetus for this being the Grenfell Tower fire and the subsequent analyses of our building safety system.

IG: What are the main aims and objectives of CROSS-UK today?

NG: CROSS has a number of functions. It provides a route for a conscientious professional to tell others about an issue they are concerned about, or to share something they have learned. The information they give can be analysed by an expert panel that holds knowledge sufficient to identify the importance of the information and what lessons need to be learned. The same panel sit back and look at the system and interpret how it is working and what needs to be done to keep it being effective.

IG: What is the value of CROSS-UK as an information exchange and who can benefit? And, how do you ensure reports are kept anonymous and lessons are shared?

NG: CROSS applies a process devised by NASA for the US aviation sector. Reports are received by “Designated Persons” – the only people who know the identity of the reporter and or the building involved. The report is de-identified and shared with an expert panel. A CROSS report is then developed that sets out the issue that has been reported and the lessons to be learned, signposting associated references as appropriate. The report is then published. Subscribers to the website can choose to receive alerts as and when new reports are posted.

Over 1000 reports have been received, reviewed, and learning points have been published in a quarterly update. Amongst those reports have been nuggets of information that have been read by structural engineers and have added to the knowledge pool for the sector. Structural engineers are now expected to become familiar with CROSS reports and hundreds of them have shared their learning with others.

IG: Can you share cautionary case histories as examples of lessons learned from recent fire safety issues, reports or incidents of particular interest to fire safety professionals?

NG: Reports published relating to fire cover many fields ­– design, construction and management, products, processes and testing.

Recent reports have highlighted the use of combustible composite material to form access decking to flats and suppliers failing to provide critical safety information with products they put to market.

Examples of CROSS-UK reports

Multi-storey building hazard reported: Risk of collapse of multi-storey CLT buildings during a fire

A reporter presents concerns about the fire safety of multi-storey buildings comprised of cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures. These concerns suggest an unacceptable risk of collapse in the event of an uncontrolled fire.

View the full report here.

Incorrect installation hazard reported: Fire compartmentation detailing issues

Two reports have been received concerning fire compartmentation detailing issues; one on the incorrect installation of fire batts and the other on the incorrect use of intumescent material.

View the full report.

Fire hazard reported: Composite deck boards in common access balconies

Reports have informed CROSS that decking boards formed of a composite material contributed to external fire development in a block of flats and rendered the means of escape and firefighting access unusable. The report relates to buildings where the access to flats is by means of an external walkway, often referred to as a common access balcony, common balcony, or a balcony/deck approach.

View the full report.

IG: What do you think will be the key changes for the industry in the next five years? Where does CROSS-UK fit in when predicting the future of fire safety methodology and why is experience-sharing a life-critical ethos for the industry?

An example of compartmentation concerns sent into CROSS-UK

NG: The fire safety sector has nothing similar to CROSS. The UK approach to fire safety over the last 40 years has changed quite dramatically. It has gone from being almost totally owned and managed in a prescriptive manner by the fire brigades to a much more diverse, goal based, self-compliant and complex process.

In that period the bodies responsible for providing fire safe buildings, the people in the system and the materials used have changed dramatically. There has been little in place to bring them all together to look at the efficacy of the whole system. The expansion of CROSS-UK is a key step that will support fire sector learning, providing a route for professionals to safely share lessons that need to be learned and to provide some oversight of the health of the fire safety system.

IG: And what about the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt regarding mandatory occurrence reporting? How does this fit in to the process?

NG: Dame Judith Hackitt recommended, for buildings in scope of the new law, there should be a Mandatory Occurrence Reporting process. CROSS has been involved in the development of proposals expected to be included in the Building Safety Bill or supporting secondary legislation. The concept under discussion was a requirement for the reporting of specified dangerous occurrences to the Building Safety Regulator, be this at design, construction, or occupation phase. Whilst the regulator will make decisions about enforcement if the report identifies compliance failure, it is anticipated that relevant information from this reporting route will be shared with CROSS to enable wider learning.

 

CROSS-UK welcomes reports about fire safety and structural safety issues related to buildings and other structures in the built environment, to help create positive change and improve safety. CROSS-UK says its secure and confidential safety reporting system allows professionals to share their experiences to help others.

Find out how to make a submission of a report to CROSS-UK, here.

 

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16-18 May 2023, ExCeL London

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