Blue Sky Offices Shoreham
25 Cecil Pashley Way
Our annual Fire Conference took place in October which we organise jointly with the Fire Protection Association, National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Sector Federation. It is a pivotal event for the fire safety sector, convening experts to discuss the future of the industry amidst significant legislative changes and ongoing investigations into the premise of the UK fire sector. With our highest ticket sales to date, over 520 (120 hybrid delegates) fire professionals came together to deliberate on strategies, challenges and opportunities for the sector, especially in light of the impending findings of the Grenfell Tower fire investigation.
Many will agree that one of the standout sessions at the conference was led by Danny Friedman KC, a Barrister from Matrix Chambers (see pg 44 for his address). Danny highlighted the need for the UK fire safety sector to adopt a human-centred approach, a critical lesson from the Grenfell Tower fire. The investigation into the Grenfell Tower incident, which has currently spanned five years, is poised to release its final report soon. This extensive inquiry has unveiled various flaws in the building’s refurbishment and maintenance.
Seven observations were drawn from the Grenfell Tower fire and the broader state of fire safety:
Post-industrial risk society
Localism and deregulation
Friedman emphasised the importance of engaging with residents, involving them in decisions affecting their safety, and collaboration between technical experts and individuals with lived experiences. He also called for a more inclusive approach to fire safety and emergency planning, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In challenging the audience to rethink their approach to fire safety and human rights, Friedman recognised the vital role of informed, engaged and heard stakeholders in risk-based decisions.
We invited Chris Griffin-McTiernan, Deputy Chief Inspector of the Building Safety Regulator to be present, and he addressed the need for change in the built environment. He stressed that a culture of blame-shifting and systematic incompetence can no longer be tolerated, with the Building Safety Regulator committed to overseeing this transformation.
Chris highlighted several key updates and areas of focus for the Building Safety Regulator from Planning Gateway One, HRB Registration, to establishing multi-disciplinary teams to instil confidence in residents.
Emphasising the regulator’s commitment to enforcement and its readiness to respond to breaches of conduct, Chris urged the industry to adapt to these changes and be part of the necessary behavioural and cultural shift in the sector.
My session explored the crucial role of fire risk assessment in the UK regulatory regime, highlighting the importance of professional standards and competency frameworks for fire risk assessors. My key points included:
Showcasing the IFE’s Fire Risk Assessors (FRAs) register and how it features around 400 registered professionals, weighing in on the need to expand this pool of registered professionals.
Professional indemnity insurance remains a critical issue for FRAs, particularly those dealing with high-risk buildings.
A clear career pathway into fire risk assessment is needed, and the IFE is working to develop specialised knowledge acquisition through distance learning.
Third-party assurance is vital for demonstrating the competence of fire risk assessors.
Bringing to light the IFE’s vision to develop specific training and qualifications in fire risk assessment, I emphasised the need to extend these frameworks internationally. It is imperative that those commissioning fire risk assessments prioritise professionals who are professionally registered and exhibit demonstrable competence and ethical conduct.
As well as keynote speakers the day featured a total of nine workshops for delegates to choose from focusing on topics such as utilising new technologies in fire safety; the long-term health of firefighters; the Golden Thread, the Building Safety Information Portal and TAP; tackling fire safety in batteries; the national regulator for construction products and the future of fire testing; and is there a learning gap from near miss fires? We were also delighted to host two panels featuring experts from the sector; the first panel focused on using professional standards to drive improvements and the second discussed the topic of enforcement and who is responsible now.
At a time of significant change, this year’s conference was a poignant instalment and we’ve received fantastic feedback. I’d like to congratulate the entire conference planning team from the FPA, NFCC, FSF and my team at the IFE.
As the sector continues to evolve, it’s events like this that provide a platform for collaboration and innovation, working towards a safer and more secure future for all. A further Fire Conference summary can be found in the upcoming issues of FIRE (commencing on page 44 of the November issue) IFE and FPA’s professional publications and content will be made available to IFE members via our online CPD hub in the new year.
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