Assessments of fire risks are an essential part of today’s approach to building fire safety. It isn’t only building owners who need to take note. The same principles apply to the supply chain, including contractors and installers, especially where products have an essential purpose to protect against fire.
It should by now be clear from what has emerged over the last two and a half years since the Grenfell Fire that there are questions to answer on the level of attention given to fire safety in the design and construction of buildings, apparently falling short in some cases of the rigorous standards that should always apply. Such was a conclusion of the Hackitt Report, which has in turn led to further initiatives.
Yet we continue to hear of revelations. On the 18 Jan 2019 The Times picked up on an item from the on-line housing news platform Insight that the original fire safety report on an early design for Grenfell Tower did not include consideration of cladding because, the report reads, the proposal to use ACM cladding was not known at the time of the report. But there was no subsequent request, it is said, to update the report and risk evaluations when external arrangements for the building were later changed.
At the same time, Insight reports their latest research that many landlords do not know if risk assessors they use are registered or not; also, that many councils (based on a review of 50) are using unregistered risk assessors to decide if buildings are safe. Such news items are truly unbelievable. There could not have been a previous time in current memory when fire safety was not so prominently and repeatedly featured and commented upon in national headlines. Awareness should be high.
Those responsible for the ownership and management of buildings should remind themselves of the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005, that started to apply in effect from 2006, specifically to define in law the ownership of responsibility for fire safety precautions in workplaces and common areas in residential multi-occupancy buildings.
Under the FSO/RRO it is a prime duty of the responsible person to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks which relevant persons could be exposed to arising from fire - i.e. those in the building or close to it who may be affected. The requirements include consideration of the necessary fire precautions and the protection measures to safeguard means of escape to a place of safety.
In turn, the responsible person is required to employ one or more competent persons to assist with the preventative and protective measures. It is expected by the FSO that those individuals should have “sufficient training, knowledge and experience to properly assist in providing suitable measures.” That is, the FSO says “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
It is unreasonable to expect competent persons under the Fire Safety Order to have the necessary detailed knowledge about every fire protection system. Fire safety systems are technically demanding. And their optimum use requires in each case detailed specific knowledge and expertise. But the competent persons should certainly be aware of three key aspects: the limits of their knowledge; which questions to ask; and where to go to find further competent guidance and advice.
That certainly applies to advanced and sophisticated fire-resistant glazed systems - such as Pyrostop and Pyrodur - which are designed to be robust against fire in a variety of fire conditions, that could be intense. The competency principle built into the Fire Safety Order legislation in effect cascades along the installation, supply and processing chain, including the building contractor (and specifier). The first contact in should always be with the responsible product supplier. For Pyrostop and Pyrodur, Anders Glass, for example, is well able to provide detailed help and guidance related to product use, rooted in many years of first-hand experience and backed by Pilkington as the responsible manufacturer, similarly with many years of product testing, research and development to call upon.
T A Anders Limited is a longstanding Licensed Supplier of the well tried and tested Pilkington Pyrostop and Pilkington Pyrodur fire-resistant glass and glazed framed systems. We stock the entire range at our modern factory in Trafford Park, Manchester, and can process, distribute, install in proprietary frames and provide fire safety and product guidance if required. For further information, please contact T A Anders Limited on 0161 736 2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.andersglass.co.uk for product specification advice, information and test evidence.
These opinions are offered in good faith but it is the responsibility of the reader to satisfy themselves as to their veracity and form their conclusions