Comment by: Alan Cox
Focus area: Fire safety regulation
Regulator concerned: My comments are general and do not relate to a particular regulator or regulatory function
I have been in the fire and safety profession for over 40 years and have a very wide experience of both enforcement, compliance, standards and regulations as both enforcer and client and think that one of the problems is that the current enforcement role is carried out by people that have very little commercial understanding and in many cases, see legal compliance as the only answer.
When I started my career in the fire service fire safety was at a very early stage in the development of legislation but at that point it was clearly recognised that as enforcers we had both an enforcement and good will role in those areas where legislation did not apply. It was also recognised that it was important to confirm good will advice in writing so that the recipient clearly understood what was expected but this has now changed and in many cases enforcement is seen as the only answer.
I have in the past carried given lectures to various fire services on this subject and when discussing this particular members of the fire service have made it very clear to me that enforcement is their main role and that they don’t have time to give good will advice. This is a pity because I have always found that if you try and actively involve the public and make fire safety compliance and enforcement more open and transparent I find that you are more likely to achieve a good result. Obviously, there are those individuals and organisations that do not feel that fire good fire safety makes good sense and cannot see a financial return and in this case enforcement may be the only option.
Clearly, there needs to be more guidance from central government and whilst some of the existing guidance is quite good and easy to understand some examples of acceptable Fire Risk Assessments need to be issued – perhaps one for a simple building and one for a more complicated building.
The question of Building Fire Plans also needs to be addressed because whilst this is quite clearly required by EC guidance their requirement and provision in the UK is sadly lacking.
Lastly, I have indicated that there is a clear need to be more open and transparent and the fire service also need to understand that they need to react and engage with other areas of the fire safety profession because its only by combining all the expertise that is available that we are likely to achieve good levels of fire safety that are both cost effective and in the interests of all of those people involved.