Fire Industry Association announces the sale of its awarding body

The FIA is pleased to announce that following extensive and detailed discussions with BAFE, the independent register of Third Party Certificated fire safety service providers, that BAFE will be acquiring the operation of the FIA awarding body

BAFE will be establishing FireQual Ltd as an OFQUAL-approved awarding body to run the existing Fire Detection and Alarm qualification examinations and to develop new qualifications across the fire sector that will support the call for greater competence and availability of verification of skills for those engaged in fire safety across the UK.

BAFE FireQual will be using qualifications industry experts to operate the business and bring experienced industry and awarding body expertise onto the FireQual Board.

The existing FIA FD&A qualifications will be transferred to BAFE and the FIA will continue to include these in their successful range of training courses. FireQual will be offering these essential qualifications to all industry trainers who meet the stringent training centre requirements.

All of the existing assets of FIA AO, including the current extensive question banks, are included in the sale. FIA AO will continue to operate the exams until such time as BAFE FireQual is in a position to be fully operational. All delegates (including those that are in mid-process) can be fully assured that the priority for the FIA and BAFE is the seamless handover of the examination regime.

It is anticipated that the transfer will be completed by the end of October 2020.

Ian Moore, Chief Executive of the FIA, said: “The FIA has allocated considerable resource to bring the first OFQUAL-approved FD&A qualifications to the industry. We are delighted to be passing this on to BAFE in its independent competency role.

“It was the FIA that originally formed BAFE as the registration body for third party certified fire engineering specialist companies across the UK. As it developed, the FIA supported BAFE to become the fully independent registration body. We now feel that the FIA AO has reached that same level of development and for the same reasons of true independence (from the FIA Training Centre), is undertaking the transfer of the FIA AO to BAFE.”

Stephen Adams, Chief Executive of BAFE, said: “We believe that this will be a significant development for the UK fire protection industry and indeed BAFE’s role as the independent competency body. The FIA has made a major contribution to introducing qualifications for FD&A technicians with the development of the FIA AO and we look forward to building on this considerable achievement for the benefit of the wider fire industry. BAFE already invigilates the exams for a large number of fire extinguisher technicians and our aim is to work with trade associations and other trainers to develop a comprehensive range of OFQUAL approved qualification exams across the whole fire sector.”



Fire sector welcomes start of consultations leading towards new laws for building safety

The UK’s fire safety sector has welcomed publication of the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Consultation starting a public consultation period that will now run over the summer period

The Fire Sector Federation told FIRE that all those working in the fire sector have been waiting for this day since the tragedy of Grenfell Tower three years ago because it represents the moment when all the legal processes that control building safety, including crucially the control of fire, will become re-energised and improved to prevent any similar catastrophic failures and loss of life.

While recognising many lessons are still being learnt, notably from the recently recommenced Phase 2 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and that many high-rise buildings have already been made safer, by removing external cladding, changing internal fire doors, installing fire detection and alarms, new directional signs and in some cases fire suppression systems, the urgency to introduce the fundamental change called for by Dame Judith Hackitt has remained.

The announcement by Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP is therefore applauded as it starts the detailed business of binding new fire and building safety regimes into law

Fire Sector Federation Chairman Michael Harper said: “After calling for action over so long a period this is a most welcome moment. We all realise changing the country’s fire and building control systems is a complex and demanding task. Throughout a building’s life, from the drawing board until its demolished, there has to be a system of control that ensures safety does match the different phases of construction, occupation and use. Intrinsic within the construction sector is innovation affecting all of these multiple life phases and throughout occupation a building’s use and its users change so a new regime has to be adaptable and well founded on life safety principles.

“As we enter the Bill’s examination and the Home Office consultation stages our Federation will be seeking to ensure a principled fire safety foundation is firmly established.”



Experts warn of link between skin creams and fatal burns

Researchers have found that fabrics with skin creams and lotions dried on can catch fire significantly faster than clean material and therefore pose a serious risk of injury or even death

Experts from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have started a new safety campaign to raise awareness of the flammability of skincare products after research showed that even creams without paraffin made fabrics significantly more flammable when applied.

In a study led by Dr Sarah Hall from the Leicester School of Pharmacy at DMU, scientists spread a thin and even layer of various emollient moisturisers on different materials and allowed them to dry for 24 hours.

For each test, the fabric was placed inside a metal frame that sat above a naked flame, ensuring it never came into direct contact.

They found the materials set alight significantly faster compared to those that had no cream on – for example, a cotton polyester strip took around ten minutes to ignite, yet all of the fabrics which were spread with moisturiser went up in flames in less than 14 seconds.

“When you see the burns that are associated with skin creams on fabrics, you can tell there is a big difference in the burn behaviour,” said Dr Hall. “The main thing that sticks out though is that the ignition time is much quicker.

“It makes you realise that people just wouldn’t have time to react and that is why there is a serious risk of severe and fatal burns.”

Since 2010 there have been 56 confirmed fire deaths linked to emollient creams in England. A review found that those most at risk tend to be over 60, smokers and have reduced mobility.

Thousands of people use emollient creams daily to manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, so they are easily transferred from skin on to clothing and bedding. The creams alone are not flammable, nor are they flammable when on the body.

However, the fire risk increases with every application of the cream as it transfers, dries and builds up on the fabric. Some cream remains even when the items are washed, so it is important to minimise the risk in additional ways, such as removing long sleeved or loose clothing before cooking or using a safety lighter.

Initially it was thought that only creams with high paraffin content were flammable, however Dr Hall’s research found that non-paraffin creams also ignite rapidly.

To raise awareness of the dangers associated with emollients, Dr Hall and the MHRA have partnered with the NFCC for a new campaign called #KnowTheFireRisk.

The MHRA recommends that anyone in the high-risk group, or their carers, should arrange a fire service assessment of their personal surroundings. They are also urged to exercise caution when close to naked flames or potential ignition sources (for example, lighting a cigarette).

Sarah Branch, Director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division, said: “We want to ensure that those who are at greatest risk, and their carers, understand the fire risk associated with the build-up of residue on clothing and bedding and take action to minimise the risk.

“Anyone who uses emollients and has any questions or concerns should speak to a healthcare professional, such as your pharmacist or GP.”

Rick Hylton, NFCC’s Home Safety Committee Lead said: “We now know that all emollients, combined with factors such as smoking or mobility issues, pose potential fire risks and this applies to both paraffin and paraffin-free products. Washing fabrics does not fully remove this risk.

“This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t use these products but we urge people to follow the updated fire safety advice.

“If you use these products and smoke, don’t do so when wearing clothes or bandages that may have dried on emollients. Don’t smoke in bed as bedding may have residue on it and be careful around other heat sources such as gas, halogen or open fires and when cooking.”



Association commits to strict compliance requirements

The Smoke Control Association has announced that all of its members have signed up to stringent new membership requirements designed to maintain the highest industry standards

Key amongst the updated membership requirements is the stipulation that all products installed as part of life safety smoke ventilation systems should be independently tested and certified to the EN12101 series of standards and CE marked.

The new framework also includes a requirement that members who install smoke control systems must apply for and receive SDI 19 Certification Scheme accreditation providing a guarantee that they have the necessary skill and experience in fire strategy verification, system design, installation and commissioning in accordance with industry standards and guidelines.

As well as adapting its membership criteria, the SCA has introduced a new formal complaints procedure in order to effectively handle any concerns or allegations that standards have fallen below expected levels or an organisation has failed to adhere to the SCA code of conduct.

In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy and the subsequent review of building regulations and fire safety standards, the SCA has taken great strides in addressing many of the challenges laid out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report, demonstrating the leadership needed to drive a shift in culture. Dame Judith recently warned that the current economic downturn could be used as an excuse for further poor practice and delay but the SCA will continue to do everything it can to raise standards and build on the progress that has already been made.

David Mowatt, Chairman of the SCA, commented: “In complying with the new requirements, the SCA membership has clearly demonstrated a commitment to best practice and can be relied upon to provide expert advice and guidance to consultants, specifiers and building operators.”

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Cladding failures led to thousands of hours of extra safety checks by London’s firefighters

London firefighters are spending over 4,000 hours per month visiting high-rise blocks where fire safety failings have resulted in ‘stay put’ advice being suspended

Labour’s London Assembly Fire and Resilience Spokesperson, Andrew Dismore AM, who obtained these figures from a series of written questions to the Mayor, said that the government’s “dither and delay” over removing dangerous cladding from tower blocks is leading to London Fire Brigade becoming a “free building safety service for tower block owners”.

High-rise blocks of flats are designed to stop the spread of fire between apartments, which is the basis of the ‘stay put’ advice. In March, London Fire Brigade identified that in 120 tower blocks, ‘stay put’ was suspended because each building was still wrapped in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, like that used on the Grenfell Tower.

In March, another 166 towers had the ‘stay put’ policy revoked due to other factors such as compartmentation failures or the presence of other types of dangerous cladding, such as high-pressure laminates.

As of June, the advice in 274 tower blocks in the capital is now for all households to simultaneously evacuate in the event of a fire instead.

The LFB is currently dispatching a fire engine and a crew of between four and six firefighters to check these buildings twice a month while ‘stay put’ advice is suspended.

The building checks, including the follow-up work for both visits, take two to four hours to complete on average.

This comes despite the government’s previous pledge to strip ACM from tower blocks by June 2020, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy three years ago.

Labour’s London Assembly Fire and Resilience Spokesperson, Andrew Dismore AM, said: “The government’s dither and delay in stripping dangerous cladding from high rises is contributing to the London Fire Brigade becoming a free building safety service for tower block owners.

“Keeping Londoners safe will always be the top priority, but providing this service takes time that could be used for other important duties such as training exercises and conducting smoke alarm checks. If the government is going to require the brigade to pick up the slack from its stalling building safety programme, it should allocate the necessary extra funding and resources.

“Firefighters have stepped up during the Covid-19 outbreak, from driving ambulances and fitting masks to delivering supplies in the community. However, the fallout from the pandemic is also due to have a huge impact on the brigade’s finances.

“The government must get its act together over cladding remediation and properly invest in our emergency services.”