Chiefs respond to building safety announcements
National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher has welcomed the ministerial announcements on sprinklers, but expressed disappointment as the final scope of the new regime was revealed
Following the consultation, Building a Safer Future, government has announced that sprinklers and consistent wayfinding signage will be a mandatory requirement for all new build residential buildings over 11 metres tall.
But, the announcements clarifying that key elements of the new regime will only apply to 18-metre buildings and those of more than six storeys. “This falls short of incorporating six- storey buildings which have been deliberately constructed to cut costs and avoid trigger thresholds in guidance,” said Mr Wilsher, adding: “This is a real lost opportunity to address wider risk and gaming of the system, particularly in existing building stock.”
The NFCC lead for Automatic Fire Suppression Systems, Gavin Tomlinson, noted: “These measures are a big step in the right direction on sprinklers. We are delighted the government has made this commitment. NFCC has played a vital role in providing advice and we are pleased the secretary of state has taken on board our evidence on the benefits of sprinklers.”
Mark Hardingham, Chair of NFCC’s Protection and Business Safety Committee, noted: “Requirements for additional signage and clearly marked floors will provide valuable assistance to firefighters.”
Updates were also published on the proposed measure for evacuation alert systems, in line with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations.
CFO Hardingham said: “We are pleased to see that the introduction of evacuation alert systems will be subject to further planning before changes are brought in. Emergency alert systems can be an additional tool for the Fire Service to use at major fires when there is a need to evacuate. However, such systems could potentially place people at risk if they are not part of a package of measures. We are pleased government has responded to the evidence submitted by NFCC, and we look forward to facilitating further planning and development to ensure these measures can be phased in safely.”
CFO Hardingham added: “We welcome the clarity provided this week, given the unprecedented challenge posed by the COVID-19 crisis, that remediation of unsafe cladding remains a priority for government. Remediating high-rise buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding and maintaining measures to ensure buildings are safe, is critical to public safety.”
The NFCC consider that personnel providing waking watch functions, and people working on vital fire safety systems such as the installation and maintenance of fire alarms, should be considered key workers as they are providing key public services and critical safety functions in order to keep homes safe.
“We’re pleased to confirm that yesterday the Fire Protection Board successfully completed the first phase of the Building Risk Review exercise. Positive responses were received from all fire and rescue services in England, that where there is a known unremediated building with ACM cladding, FRSs have effective response plans in place and are monitoring the suitability of interim measures implemented by responsible persons.”
Mr Wilsher concluded: “NFCC welcome Stephen Greenhalgh as the newly appointed joint Minister across the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office.
“This can only enhance co-ordination of the response to Grenfell across the building and fire safety landscape, and we look forward to working with the Minister in his new portfolio.”
Join the European Fire Safety Community and drive action on fire safety
All involved in fire safety agree that there is a need to share information and to create solutions; Fire Safe Europe has built the space to do so with the European Fire Safety Community, a new open-to-all Fire Safe Europe members
This permanent online space enables fire safety stakeholders to connect, pool knowledge and collaboratively improve fire safety in buildings. Over 240 people have already joined the movement across Europe. Register and like them benefit from:
- Exclusive interviews with policymakers and fire safety experts
- Intelligence on legislation and initiatives on fire safety at EU level
- Interactive podcasts and webinars on central fire safety issues
- And much more…
The community intends to foster the emergence of concrete solutions, that is why it focuses in-depth on three highly relevant topics at EU level:
- Data Collection: a dedicated advisory panel analyses what already exists on fire safety data collection, fosters exchanges of best practices and aims to support the European Commission’s tender on ‘Closing data gaps and paving the way for Pan-European fire safety efforts’. Perks of belonging to this group include an episode of the Data Project Podcast with MEP Theresa Griffin, as well as an exclusive webinar with Dr Kate Nguyen on the methodology and strategy used by the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition to develop their fire terminology glossary.
- Facades Fire Safety: benefits of being in this advisory panel involve getting comparisons on regulation and standards as well as regular updates on the European Commssion’s work on the development of a European approach to assess the fire performance of facades.
- Sustainable Buildings: amid the EU Green Deal, the community intends to reinforce buildings’ sustainability by inserting into the sustainability debate an element that has been omitted so far: fire resilience.
Check out the eufiresafety.community page for further details and to know more on the origins of this project read the article from Juliette Albiac, Fire Safe Europe’s Managing Director.
Association welcomes government’s Building Safety Bill proposals
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection report on welcoming the government’s plans to reform building safety and undertake a major review of the building regulations, a move which the association believes is long overdue
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomes plans to establish new regulators for building safety and for construction products, and a new Construction Products Standards Committee and looks forward to working with these new organisations to further improve the safety of our built environment.
Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick announced proposals for a new Building Safety Bill, as well as a new Fire Safety Bill as part of the government’s response to its recent consultation on building safety. He also declared a major holistic review of the building regulations would be undertaken, resulting in the development of a new digital based document. With the full review expected to take around five years to complete, he announced further revisions to Approved Document B will be published in May, which will mandate the use of sprinklers and consistent signage in all new high rise flats over 11m tall.
The ASFP is delighted with the proposal to undertake such a far-reaching review of the Building Regulations but stresses that changes introduced, both following the review and in the interim, should consider the vital role of both passive and active fire protection systems which must work together to provide a complete fire safety package.
The ASFP also applauds the early introduction of the new building regulator. The Building Safety Regulator, to be established under the auspices of the HSE, will be responsible for enforcing a more stringent regulatory regime covering buildings over 30m tall or of ten storeys or more and will be responsible for completing a register of buildings in scope and for oversight of their fire safety. The new buildings regulator will need to liaise with existing regulatory bodies and fire safety organisations to ensure that it has the most appropriate and up-to-date construction and fire-related knowledge.
The ASFP is pleased to see that the proposals suggest the new regulator will also have a wider role in monitoring the performance of all buildings – not just those in scope – through its involvement in the review of Building Regulations and oversight of building control bodies. The association also welcomes the proposals for the regulator to take over from the industry-led Competence Steering Group to review, develop and implement its work and manage a new system aimed at assessing and assuring the competence of people across all disciplines working in buildings.
The ASFP also welcomes the government proposal for a new national regulator for construction products and a new Construction Products Standards Committee. The Construction Products Regulator will consider a wider range of construction products and will be responsible for market surveillance and oversight of local enforcement actions; enforcement action with manufacturers when issues are judged to be of national significance; and provision of appropriate advice to government. The ASFP is encouraged that the regulator also aims to develop a range of third-party certification standards.
In addition, a new Construction Products Standards Committee will work on the development of technical standards for construction products and will advise the government whether voluntary industrial standards should become UK regulatory standards, a role currently undertaken by the European Commission.
Commenting on the full range of Government announcements, ASFP CEO Niall Rowan declared: “The ASFP, along with many other stakeholders, has been calling for a full review of Building Regulations for many years. We are pleased the government is now poised to conduct a far-reaching holistic review. We also broadly welcome the government’s proposals for a range of new national regulators and committees to provide oversight and control of the fire safety regime in England and Wales.”
How safe is your work from home setup?
Electrical Safety First and the National Fire Chiefs Council have joined-up to expose the dangers of home working
Electrical Safety First finds many people working from home due to the pandemic may be overloading sockets, daisy-chaining and charging devices on beds. As huge numbers of people working from home adapt to a new working routine, many may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk due to unsafe electrical setups and practices.
Research conducted by consumer safety charity Electrical Safety First has looked into the dangers to which a nation of newly remote workers may be unknowingly exposing themselves.
With increased use of electrical equipment in many homes such as work laptops, tablets, phones and heaters, a new survey by the charity has found more than two thirds of those currently working from home are using extension leads or adaptors with the electronic device they are working on and 38 per cent of them have more appliances plugged into one than they usually would.
Worryingly, more than one in three are either unaware of the risks of overloading plug sockets or how to check whether they are doing so. By using extension leads and adaptors to plug additional devices into a socket, there is a danger that they could be overloaded, creating a fire risk.
Even more concerning is the 44 per cent of those currently working from home using extension leads or adapters as part of their setup who admit to ‘daisy-chaining’ them together. Daisy-chaining involves plugging one extension into another in order to reach further or plug more appliances in and is advised against in all circumstances.
Another issue identified by the charity is bad behaviour in the bedroom, with more than half of those surveyed either often or sometimes placing an electrical item such as a laptop or phone on their bed whilst it is charging as part of their work-from-home setup. This can also create a fire risk due to the potential of the item overheating. Electrical items should only ever be left on hard, non-flammable surfaces unless switched off and not charging.
Electrical Safety First is recommending those working from home take advantage of the Charity’s Socket Overload Calculator to check they are not plugging too many appliances in at once, and to pay extra attention to their electrical safety during their period of remote working.
Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “With 70 per cent of those currently working from home doing so for the first time due to Covid-19, it’s unsurprising that not everyone will have had a chance to ensure their work stations are free from electrical hazards.
“Take a few minutes to make sure you’re not daisy-chaining extension leads or overloading your plug sockets and that you are charging your devices on hard, non-flammable surfaces. We should all pay extra attention to electrical safety during our period of remote working. For more detail as well as some helpful tools, head to www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk ”
Rick Hylton, Lead for Home Safety at the National Fire Chiefs Council, echoed the charity’s concerns: “As many people set up temporary home offices and adjust to a new way of working, there could potentially be a rise in electrical fires.
“So, the Fire Service ask that you check you have working smoke alarms and a practised escape plan in case there is a fire. But also make sure you follow the simple advice to reduce your risk of an electrical fire.
“These fires are often preventable and the advice will not only keep you working safely at home but reduce the pressure on the Fire Service.”
Virtual fire safety for businesses
Cleveland Fire Brigade is running virtual drop-in fire safety sessions for businesses and other organisations during the current crisis
Weekly slots will be available where people can log-on and speak directly to a fire safety expert and get advice and support to comply with their legal obligations. There will be also the chance to give a video tour of your premises to pinpoint any danger areas.
Steve Johnson, Area Manager, Prevention, said: “Our number one priority is keeping our communities safe. In these difficult times we are committed to supporting local businesses and other organisations to keep them in line with fire safety regulations.
“These virtual drop-in sessions allow local businesses and their designated ‘responsible persons’ to speak with our fire engineering team and use digital technology to show us any issues they may have within premises. This is an excellent opportunity for our local businesses to engage with us. I would strongly encourage local business owners and designated ‘responsible persons’ take advantage of this, visit our website or use the weblinks we are advertising.”
Ten minute bookable slots are available from 0900 to 1200 each Friday from next week.
Figures show that 86 per cent of businesses that have a fire, never recover and literally go out of business.
For business safety advice during Coronavirus pandemic visit: www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Safer-Business-Coronavirus-Fire-Safety-Advice-A4-PDF.pdf
NBF publishes flammability testing best practice guidelines
The National Bed Federation has published new guidelines aimed at improving testing quality and consistency for manufacturers and labs testing mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases for low hazard domestic use
The guidelines have been put together by the National Bed Federation’s (NBF) quality and standards committee, headed by NBF technical manager Tristine Hargreaves, with input from the flammability working group of the UK Textile Laboratory Forum.
Tristine said: “The need for more detailed testing guidelines was identified after adverse publicity regarding mattress flammability testing a couple of years ago. It emerged that manufacturers were getting a worrying number of inconsistent test results, from different samples or from different laboratories. It also became clear that inadequate specification detail on test certificates meant it was difficult to track testing regimes if product specifications were changed in any way.
“Our objective was to try and find ways in which human error and other variables could be much reduced, resulting in more consistent test results and therefore, less cost and more peace of mind for manufacturers and retailers.”
The guidelines come in two parts. Part One, for manufacturers, covers: guidelines for the type of sample and frequency of testing; common variables that might require additional testing, and test sample preparation. Part Two, for test laboratories, covers the testing process, including: preparation of samples; selection of test position for ignition source, including clarification for non-identical surfaces; control of airflow during testing; potential sources of contamination and production of test reports.
“We believe these new guidelines will make a real difference to testing quality and consistency, which will benefit manufacturers, retailers, labs and enforcement authorities,” said NBF President Tony Lisanti. “They neither replace BS 7177 or represent any additional burden above them – they are simply aimed at providing clarity and guidance.”
The guidance will be put forward to British Standards Committee for consideration in the next review of BS 7177 to ensure better clarity for users of the standard.
The guidelines are available to all to access and can be see and downloaded from the trade pages of the NBF website: https://www.bedfed.org.uk/trade/flammability/
Partnership Sponsor for Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards
Pro-Cloud BlueLight reports on the exciting new partnership with FIRE magazine’s Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards 2020
Our new partnership provides us with the opportunity to support fire and rescue services across the country, recognising the outstanding contribution from their dedicated teams.
We are honoured to have our brand aligned with the most prestigious awards ceremony in the fire and emergency services calendar and we cannot wait to celebrate with services later on in the year. We specifically choose to sponsor the Innovation of the Year award due to the technologically advanced nature of our business.
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