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July 17, 2014

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Simon Ince Q&A: Prospects of a Fire-Safe Register and Sharing Best Practice Across Borders

Simon-ince-profileSimon Ince spoke to IFSEC Global about the imminent prospect of an equivalent to the successful Gas Safe Register.

The strategic alliance and partnership manager for Warrington Certification (recently named among the most influential people in the fire industry) also discusses his work in definining competence criteria for fire-safety managers the challenges involved in sharing best practice across borders.

IG: Do you ever expect to see a Fire Safe Register, an equivalent to the Gas Safe Register?

SI: Yes, I do think we will see one in the next 18 months; I know there is a proposal being put forward to the Fire Sector Federation which has credibility and could allow the register be administered by an independent organization.

The idea is to make the register into a search engine for fire safety products and services; this register would only feature products or service providers that have accredited third party approvals.  When I looked for a gas fitter recently using an internet search engine, the first person I found in my area had a gas-safe logo on his website, however when I did a cross reference check on the gas safe register  (which not a lot of people do)  he wasn’t listed on there.

The fire safe register will need to be ‘the’ place to go to specify or procure fire safety products and services; a sort of Amazon with quality assurance of those listed.

The compliance assurance that a register like this would offer, would raise standards of fire safety almost overnight, because if you’re a social housing provider, NHS trust or care provider you would need a really good excuse for not using the fire safe register as your procurement directory.

IG: Anything else in the pipeline?

SI: One of the major work areas of the Fire-Sector Federation has started looking at the competence of those who manage fire safety in UK properties. This is in response to several multi-fatality fires here in the UK, where fire safety management failures were a contributory factor.

Part of the work we are doing is to define the competence criteria for fire safety managers; the A, B, C of what they need to know and the X,Y,Z of what they need to do. These criteria will then be used to inform employers of the technical requirements their managers should have, it will be used by training providers as a syllabus and possibly by third party certification bodies for assessment.

Good fire safety management and methodology is the next big area the sector has to address; hopefully we can do enough to avoid the next big multi fatality fire.

We made a new guidance document available at FIREX this year. It is entitled ‘Fire safety and due diligence’, which will hopefully be of use to fire safety managers who attended the show.

IFSEC Global: There must be some examples where good fire safety knowledge has been shared across borders…

SI: There are lots and lots of harmonized European fire standards for products/systems, for testing and for operating third party certification. However there is very little in the way of sharing good fire safety practice in the same way as we share standards.

There must be some good case studies, research and guidance documents that are being produced in other countries, which don’t seem to be filtering down to the fire sector in the UK.

Even when it does flow this way we are slow on the uptake or we don’t even bother to apply it. For example in 2010 the European hotel and restaurant group HOTREC released a guide to good fire safety practice in hotels. This standard to our knowledge has been widely ignored by the UK hotel sector.

There is a now a scheme by which hotel operators can demonstrate they are complying with this European industry standard; not one UK hotel has signed up to this initiative.  If you look at the presentations for Firex International this year, there was very little if anything from any other country apart from the UK.

In an attempt to address this at this year’s FRACS seminar in October, we hope to include some international case studies so delegates can learn from a different perspective.

IG: Why do you think there is little crossover between different countries?

There are still so many differences between countries that often a specific problem in one would have been addressed through building regulations or fire regulations in another, so it would never be a problem in that country. Cultural differences and enforcement differences also play a part too.

Take the Kiss nightclub disaster in Brazil for example; many people believe that something like that couldn’t happen here because of the UK licensing laws and because we have a structured fire service enforcement regime.

However, there was a night club in Bolton closed down by the Fire and Rescue Service during the early hours of the morning in late November 2013. The risk to life in the event of a fire being so great, that the clubs owners were served an immediate prohibition notice.

Presumably that club was dangerous the night before, the week before the month before; who knows how many young people had been exposed to that risk during a night out with friends.

I do feel that the UK to some extent is leading much of the world in fire safety and the flow of information from the UK out is very good, but there are many common problems here that we haven’t been able to address which are repeated all over the world. So it stands to reason there should be some common answers to fire safety issues too.

The sharing of good practice isn’t something that happens naturally, someone has to coordinate it and disseminate it. Hopefully through the Fire Sector Federation, the global issue of fire safety can start to be addressed and by developing a global sharing network for strategy, guidance and policy, many common failures which often lead to fire loss could be addressed more successfully.

Read Simon Ince’s previous interview: “Proper Fire Safety Costs Money – and Everyone Wants a Bargain”

Simon was also interviewed by FIREX TV at FIREX International 2014

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11 Comments on "Simon Ince Q&A: Prospects of a Fire-Safe Register and Sharing Best Practice Across Borders"

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Legislation , legislation , paperwork , paperwork .Its no wonder companies have to charge more than is reasonable . The proposed Fire safe Register is just another another attempt by the “big boys” to put pressure on small companies to give up , so the “big boys” have the monopoly . I ran a very successful small fire protection company for 15 years , in the early days we were BSI/BAFFE approved but opted out due the silly amounts of paperwork , the cost and stupid requirements . We never lost one customer and they included H M prisons ,… Read more »
I agree with Ben, this seems to be the start of a fire industry cartel, making money out of 3rd party certification. As a former enforcement officer with a local authority fire brigade, I have seen and heard stories of the abuses when the client has called in a fire company to tell them what they need. Would you go into a car sales room and ask them to decide what car you should buy? No! Because, in some cases, you would be sold a pup. Unfortunately, resources for enforcement by fire authorities are being stretched and poor fire risk assessments… Read more »
Neil Ashdown
B E N Hope you recover soon B E N and get back to the world of fire safety services. High standards of integrity, workmanship, best practice, correct selection of products and installation as fire performance test etc will always be paramount whether third party certificated or not. Just one thing though………….Simon isn’t suggesting that there should be legislation so that only third party certificated companies can offer fire safety related services and products. He’s talking about a website at which building owners/operators could find fire safety contractors and suppliers. The user of this web based service would have the… Read more »
Mister Littlebit

Agree with both comments from BEN and Neil, nearly 10 years on and the ethos of the RRO ‘cost neutral’ ‘not a burden on business’ ha ha, too many ‘fear sellers’ in the fire industry for that to happen.

Mister Littlebit

I don’t disagree with you Simon, but may I quote some other phrases in the RRO (and guidance suite books) ‘where necessary’ and ‘reasonable fire precautions’ and ‘flexibility’  There is an awful amount of  over the top fear selling in my opinion, the RRO if used properly as a risk based approach can achieve compliance without compromising safety.

Mister Littlebit
Of course I forgot to mention my mindset is on the backbone of the UK i.e ‘the nation of shopkeepers’ in other words the small to medium businesses fighting to survive in the real world. As Colin Todd said recently at Firex the large companies always had management systems etc in place and would comply anyway whatever the legislation. I’m referring to the small factory with 20 staff who has been sold extinguishers every 5 metres and wall coverings of safety signs! or the over zealous fire officer who recently insisted a top floor of a small 2 storey building… Read more »

Mister Littlebit Too many so called approved people use the legislation to scare people and as a tool to sell where not needed

Alan Cox
I believe that Simon’s comments are very valid both in respect of  improving the imagine of Fire Risk Assessors and for sharing Best Practice across borders, but unfortunately, this is only part of a much wider problem. Anyone that read my article on the RRO – Order or Chaos https://www.ifsecglobal.com/rro-order-of-chaos/ would note that I stated  “I think that we first have to look closer to home. In my experience, we are not very good ambassadors for our own profession, and I include under this heading local authority fire officers, consultants, fire safety companies and the myriad of other job titles… Read more »
Simon Ince

The only burden on business is compliance and compliance saves lives saves property and saves a business. In many many many cases of fire in the UK the business has been lacking in compliance. Is an MOT a burden on moterists? Is legionella testing a burden on business? Is airplane maintenance a burden on flight operators?
There are certain given fire safety standards that should be in place to protect life. The FRS enforcement figures confirm that many businesses inspected don’t meet these standards. How is that ever acceptable

Simon Ince

Over the top fear selling does give the fire risk industry a bad name I fully agree. However when buildings don’t meet basic fire risk requirements more need to be done. It is a bit like saying speeding is absolutely fine as long as you don’t have an accident or don’t get caught doing it. There are basic requirements that are just not being met and when fires occur those basics not being met can lead to greater fire loss.

James Livingstone

I think a gas safe register will be great for the industry, the gas safe register cleared out the dodgy tradesman by ensuring they are registered and making gas safety certificates a standard and I think a fire safe register will do the same thing!