Jason Hill, Sales Manager at Tio Fire Safety, looks at how the humble fire logbook is adapting to become a key tool in the fire protection arsenal, and helping to address the increasing demands of the golden thread
The traditional paper fire logbook (or more accurately logbooks, as sites often need more than one), is a fixture of millions of buildings right across the UK. Despite its role as a central record of fire safety actions and information, it can frequently be inaccurate or incomplete, stored incorrectly, lost or duplicated. It is also vulnerable, even when correctly protected, and with the enhanced requirement for audit trails in everything fire-related, that is a major downside.
The paper fire logbook relies on multiple individuals – responsible people (RP) on the building occupancy and estates side; and competent people (CP) on the services side, such as fire risk assessors, fire systems installers and building inspectors, among others – to make the necessary entries that demonstrate compliance. Where an incident does occur, it is also a vital tool for the Fire Service, investigators and insurance assessors.
In all residential buildings of two or more units, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) already required the RP to ensure that all fire safety facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in efficient working order and in good repair, charging them with the safety of everyone on the premises at any time, whether working, visiting or sleeping there.
Under the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA), the responsibilities of the RP become more onerous and, extending responsibility further ‘up the chain’, it introduces the roles of accountable person (AP) and building safety manager (BSM), both of whom must be identified. The FSA also extends the number of buildings to which the RRFSO applies and notes that proof of compliance (or failure to comply) with risk-based guidance may be used to corroborate any contravention, and the consequences could be criminal, which is why the traditional paper logbook is no longer fit for purpose.
Clearly, given the evolving regulatory environment, the role of safety records and logbooks is becoming ever more critical. The duties of the RP (and now the AP and the BSM) are specified in articles 8 to 22 of the RRFSO, covering the requirement to take general fire precautions, undertake a fire risk assessment and make appropriate fire safety arrangements, to include ‘the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures’. Indeed, an up-to-date fire logbook is regularly and explicitly referred to in BS5839-1 and many other related standards.
A Digital Future for Logbooks
Given the demands for transparency and responsibility in fire protection, and the increasing digitisation of the built environment, the good news is that technology has not entirely bypassed this humble fixture of many British buildings. In fact, even before Grenfell and the raft of new legislation and regulations that ensued, provision was made in 2017, as part of a revision to BS5839-1, to facilitate the concept of a digital replacement for the traditional paper logbook. The technology has taken a few years to catch up with the concept, but finally a genuine digital solution is available.
Tio Fire Safety has developed the first true digital fire logbook for UK fire, facilities and safety professionals. We call it the true digital logbook because it genuinely replaces and improves the paper logbook, being accessible to everyone and as easy to use and set up as paper. With all information stored in the cloud, it is not only safer and more secure; the ability to access, share and coordinate information also makes it a ready-made tool for compliance with evolving fire regulations, and the demands of modern service contracts and management.
With a digital fire logbook, site visits and actions can and should be recorded and accessed by building occupiers, service providers, risk assessors, installers, commissioning engineers and the emergency services. It can also be accessed online whenever needed and, in place of the usual physical paper logbook and document store in the building, a QR code can be displayed on the fire panel or on a zone chart, giving instant access when scanned via a mobile device.
This means that local fire officers and inspectors, as well as RPs, APs and BSMs, can access the digital fire logbook at any time, to ensure compliance, see what actions have been taken and, in relevant circumstances, see if their mandated actions and recommendations have been acted on. For professionals overseeing multiple sites, often in different parts of the country, the advantages of this feature cannot be overstated.
Task, Asset and Service Management
Not only will a digital logbook facilitate simpler and more detailed logging of all actions relating to fire safety in the building, Tio also comes with a complete compliance task management package that raises and tracks the safety responsibilities of all parties. This makes responsibilities clear, allows compliance to be performance managed and also provides guidance to users who need it.
Unlike a dumb paper logbook, the digital version can provide reminders when tasks are due, as well as overdue, which is a godsend for RPs, who may have responsibility for multiple buildings and will most likely have fire safety oversight as only one part of a wider job description. Service providers can also integrate this into their software and service processes so that everyone can see all parties are on top of their compliance tasks.
A digital logbook can also be linked to a rapid asset management platform, designed specifically for fire. This delivers a full inventory of all fire-related assets. When linked to the digital fire logbook, this creates an unprecedented level of compliance from the asset up, and a secure and comprehensive audit trail and asset history of all fire safety observations, actions and actors. The benefits are obvious, but to do this on paper would mean some very thick logbooks in some very expensive cabinets, too complicated to read or update. A cloud-based logbook can also cover a range of fire, security and safety topics without creating more paper or processes.
The benefit of such digital technologies is felt be everyone contributing to the golden thread. Service companies enjoy better relationships and contract retention as a digital logbook can demonstrate performance, professionalism and best practice. Indeed, clear relationships and accountability are an important part of fire safety and compliance, and, of course, the cloud means such records are available for the lifetime of a building, tenancy and contracts.
A major plus of digital is the ability to integrate with third-party tools, such as fire risk assessment, inspection or service management software and to have a secure digital document storage facility instead of a document box. In this way compliance is dynamic, recorded and holistic, with evidence and risk based thinking at its heart. The digital logbook becomes the fire and safety passport for the building and the professionals responsible for it.
As digital logbooks allow a single RP, AP, BSM or company to cover thousands of individual properties in a single portfolio, they can also provide performance and compliance dashboards that aggregate data across the estate. This offers a live micro or macro view of compliance, which is very useful for service providers, building managers and facility professionals alike. It is very hard to see the status of your compliance or the performance of your contractors, or to find an important document if it is locked in a document box on a site hundreds of miles away.
Using a digital fire logbook in place of a paper logbook clearly offers a number of safety, efficiency and legal advantages. Aside from the obvious benefits of the logbook always being available, never lost or damaged, it is always accessible for all interested parties. Virtual fire logbooks can be shared electronically, allowing fire risk assessors or the fire service, for example, to complete many of their tasks before or after attending site, and the benefits for all parties are significant.
As it is much easier to enter information electronically via an app or website, as opposed to sitting on the stairs with a paper logbook balanced on your knee, this also leads to more detailed and informative entries, which is advantageous when the conscientious observation of fire regulations needs to be demonstrated by the RP and the AP.
The traditional paper logbook is about to go the way of the dinosaurs, and its digital replacement has the potential to save lives, as well as making life simpler and less stressful for anyone involved with fire safety. In a world where compliance is rightly becoming more onerous, and audit trails are no long simply a ‘nice to have’, a digital logbook helps us all meet new challenges. For more information on digital logbooks visit www.tiofiresafety.com