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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
July 12, 2018

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Fire Safety

Fire risk assessment sector must undergo cultural change in wake of Hackitt report, says safety expert

Speaking at FIREX 2018, Brian Gregory from Safety Management UK told delegates that “somebody needs to stand up and do something different” following the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety.

I believe Dame Judith got a lot right,” he told delegates at the event. “It’s about how cheap we can get the job done. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Everybody has looked to cut corners and save money.

“That’s why the culture needs to change. Dame Judith talked about a lack of leadership from the enforcement authority,” added Mr Gregory. “That’s probably fair.

“There needs to be clarity and it comes from people standing up and saying these are the rules. But everybody keeps shying away from that.

“We’ve had a race to the bottom. Whether we have got there yet is another matter, but if there’s further to go, then the problems are only going to get worse.”

One of the key recommendations in Dame Judith’s report was for a Joint Competency Authority, which will have a wider role around addressing systemic issues around culture and behaviours.

But having worked for one of those agencies in the past, Mr Gregory said he would be “amazed if they come together and have one unified voice”.

Firex“If they do it will take a long time,” he commented.

He also criticised the role that procurement has played in the “race to the bottom” of standards.

“We are being asked for solid gold fire risk assessments, but at bronze prices and paid in 90 days. If we are going to provide solid gold fire risk assessments, Type 4 fire risk assessments and fire door surveys which look at each door properly, then we are going to have to charge for that. Someone will have to accept this will all cost money.

“Unless we change the culture, nothing will change, but it’s who goes first – us or them. Someone will have to put their hands up and say it needs to be more quality orientated.”

Mr Gregory also said there was currently a shortage of fire risk assessors in the UK and the industry needs to find a way of attracting and training new people as demand for assessments continues to grow.

“There needs to be more cross-discipline thinking,” he added. “Fire risk assessors do not talk to the guys who put in the active stuff. They are not consulted at the design stage. We are brought in at the end, and we have occasionally delivered some horrific news to buildings that have been refurbished and we are the ones that get shot, because we bring the bad news. With some joined-up thinking, we could build a better end product.”

FIREX was running alongside Safety and Health Expo. For more content from the event, click here.

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