FSF discusses ‘frustration’ at pace of post Grenfell change

10 July 2019

Michael Harper, chairman of the Fire Sector Federation (FSF), acknowledged the organisation’s ‘frustration at progress’ made in the past two years to prevent fires like Grenfell Tower.

At the FIREX International 2019 event last month, Mr Harper introduced a debate on the governmental response to Grenfell Tower, and while he welcomed the progress made so far on changes to fire safety regulations, he expressed ‘the frustration professionals and residents have concerning the lack of positive actions taken to stop another catastrophic fire’.

Mr Harper, who became FSF chairman last year, stated that alongside many others ‘inside and outside government’, the federation had been ‘trying to address’ a ‘myriad’ number of issues in building systems that ‘so clearly failed’, while also trying to ‘identify the products that can and cannot be used in circumstances like high rise or high risk buildings’.

He observed that this has ‘not been an easy or indeed fast task’, acknowledging in turn that it has ‘at times been frustrating and painfully slow’, though added the caveat that ‘it does of course have to be thorough and meticulous’. Mr Harper emphasised however that there was a ‘clear wish’ to see the Grenfell inquiry ‘move quickly’ to the second phase, as well as for the government’s current building safety consultation to ‘bring into fruition’ a ‘bedrock change’ of a better building control system.

This, he hoped, would be a system that ‘chased down the whole culture and competency of a construction industry that had somehow become complacent if not, in some cases, positively indifferent about fire safety’. The FSF had joined with many other organisations to both demand and to implement all of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations, to stop ‘cherry picking’ and conversely avoid the ‘too difficult’ issues.

It had been arguing for a review of building regulations ‘for a number of years’, as well as pressing ‘the case for defining competency’, suggesting ‘strongly’ that third party installers offer assured quality, and has promoted both sprinklers and alarms to ‘protect the vulnerable’. The federation had also argued for better building protection: not ‘because of vested commercial interest’, but because its members ‘share a common commitment to improve fire safety in the UK’.

Organisations such as the FSF ‘often had a difficult task in bringing the diverse views’ of members together, he added, but concluded that he was pleased that on many issues the FSF’s ‘common commitment’ had allowed it to agree a ‘common denominator’ position on a range of fire safety concerns.

Stephen Adams, BAFE chief executive, added: ‘BAFE fully endorses the call by the FSF for rapid progress to be made with the implementation of the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s report. We support the many calls for third party certificated competence to become the recognized measure for building and fire safety providers.’

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