Ben Bradford

Managing Director, BB7 Fire Limited

Author Bio ▼

Holding duel professional status as both a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Surveyor, Ben Bradford is the founder and Managing Director of the renowned, BB7 Fire Risk & Resilience consultants. He has chaired the FIA Fire Risk Assessment Council's Professional Standards Working Group for almost six years and was a founding member of the Fire Engineering Council. As the Principle author of PAS 7: Fire Risk Management Systems Specification from the British Standards Institution, Ben is particularly interested in organizational fire risk management strategy and operational challenges.
April 2, 2014

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PAS 7 Certification improves robustness of Primary Authority Schemes

The government is extending the Primary Authority to fire safety regulation and enforcement from 6 April 2014.

Part of the government’s drive to reduce the burden on business, the reform ensures that necessary regulations are enforced more efficiently and consistently across fire and rescue geographical boundaries.

How will this be achieved?

If businesses are to benefit from clearer, more consistent enforcement of fire safety legislation then surely fire authorities and their partners would benefit from robust national guidance that provides a specification for organisations to implement?

Fortunately, almost two years ago, the British Standards Institution formed a steering group that included representatives from CFOA, The Institution of Fire Engineers, The Fire Sector Federation and the Association of British Insurers, among others, and began drafting PAS 7: 2013 – Fire Risk Management System Specification, which was published in 2013.

It’s no coincidence that this standard fits hand in glove with government plans to extend the Primary Authority.

Consistent enforcement across geographical boundaries

Current fire safety legislation and guidance is based on risk and focuses on individual premises and facilities.

It is less specific about managing this risk from fire at an organizational level. In many cases, the person(s) with duties under legislation will be part of a larger organization with multiple sites and facilities with common working practices and procedures.

This can present challenges with regard to translating fire safety policy into effective strategies throughout the organization, where fire safety is unlikely to be the key driver.

Although current fire safety legislation provides a legal instrument to prosecute, if it is perceived that inadequate fire safety management has caused an offence, until 2013 there was no definitive guidance dictating minimum standards, functions and accessibility of fire safety management information across a corporate entity or multiple-site organization.

PAS 7 presents requirements for an organizational fire risk management system (FRMS), which can be applied in organizations operating across multiple sites, separate management divisions within an organization, or individual premises within a single entity.

A documented FRMS provides a means of demonstrating that fire safety policy is translated into action to ensure that the fire risk to life and business are reduced as far as reasonably practicable, while ensuring that legislative requirements are met.

The management system’s extent should be proportionate to the risk level of the organization’s activities and subsequent level of assurance sought. It should be noted that an organization’s risk tolerance – that is, its readiness to bear risk, after risk treatment, to achieve its objectives – will be limited by legal or regulatory requirements.

A well-implemented PAS 7 system will ensure an organisation does not fall below minimum compliance level.

Documentation of the FRMS and its processes will provide an auditable trail that demonstrates an organization’s commitment to fire risk management and legislative compliance. Moreover, it gives an enforcing authority the confidence to issue assured advice to an organisation.

Why should organisations implement a PAS 7 system?

A fire risk management audit can identify any weakness that could potentially have a fundamental and immediate impact preventing the achievement of strategic aims and/or objectives, or result in an unacceptable exposure to reputation or other strategic risks. Some of the benefits include:

  • An opportunity to employ best practice
  • Efficiencies
  • Process improvement
  • Rationalization of the fire risk assessment program
  • Ensuring life safety provision does not fall below minimum compliance level
  • Improved risk mitigation giving due consideration to property protection, mission continuity, environmental, and social sustainability
  • Increase assurance for stakeholders, i.e. Shareholders, Insurance, enforcers

Cutting the cost of compliance

If an organisation formalises its fire risk management system in accordance with PAS 7 and maintains the system the organisation will inevitably seek to improve the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the system over time.

Ultimately the current practice of spending large sums of money of compliance with fire safety legislation is unsustainable and the improvements in fire safety levels are not proportionate to the amount being spent. PAS 7 provides an opportunity to change that and where possible cut the cost of compliance without lowering safety standards.

Third party certification to PAS 7 can cut the cost of entering a Primary Authority Scheme because no additional audit would be required of an organisation prior to entering a partnership and any initial cost would only be a minimal charge to undertake due diligence to review the audit reports provided by a UKAS accredited certification body and to verify the currency and scope of certification.

Regulation should not be an unnecessary burden on business but should allow safe business to continue without interference.  PAS 7 Certificated organisations should not be subject to inspections by a fire authority whether or not they have entered a Primary Authority Scheme.

Third party certification of an organisations fire risk management system could be the really big win for Government, business and the fire and rescue service.

Third-party certification of fire risk management systems

Sir Ken Knight, Chairman of the BSI fire strategy group BSI FSH/0 recently said:

“I am delighted that both users and enforcement authorities now have a common consistent standard using PAS 7: 2013 to assist in setting out a framework for organisations wishing to formalise their fire risk management system, demonstrate compliance more holistically and take a more strategic approach to managing the risks posed by the threat of fire.

“An organisation that has formalised its fire risk management policy, strategy and procedures in accordance with PAS 7: 2013, is in a very strong position whereby PAS 7 certification schemes provide a robust means by which fire and rescue services can re-evaluate their fire safety audit regimes and integrated risk management plans.”

When organisations gain UKAS-accredited, third-party certification, it should significantly reduce the time the fire service takes to complete an audit, meaning enforcing authorities have more time for other, higher risk businesses.

Regulation needn’t be an unnecessary burden on business. Organisations that make a voluntary declaration of compliance with PAS 7 and achieve third-party certification of conformity to PAS 7, should be left to continue their business activities without undue interference from enforcing authorities.

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Ashley Theakstone

Hi Ben, good briefing, heard Brian Neat at an IFE CPD event earleir this week in Thames Valley area.  Interesting times for FRS, a few active Consultancies could make a move here. I must take time to read full version of PAS.  Nice one.  Regards

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