Each year, Business Link Magazine invites a select panel of the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead.
For this slighlty different look at the past year and into 2018, we catch up with Colin Milligan, Sales Director of fire and security specialists Tecserv UK to see what he feels should be done 2018, and what improvements are to be made this year.
In the final prediction of January’s series, Colin offers lessons to be learned going into this year from the perspective of a fire safety specialist reflecting on the numerous horrific fires of the last year:
Following a high-profile fire, there is almost always an investigation and a series of recommendations that seek to prevent reoccurring incidents, ascertain accountability and apportion blame.
Who can forget the Grenfell Tower incident, and other recent high-profile fires such as the Echo Arena car park fire in Liverpool and the suspected arson attack on Nottingham Train Station.
Whilst I will be the first to acknowledge these reviews produce reports that run into hundreds of pages and there are numerous organisations and authorities that come under scrutiny, the person right at the bottom of the food chain is almost always the Responsible Individual (or Individuals if a team of people hold this role). The RI must, therefore, be able to prove total compliance with fire safety regulations to avoid prosecution for negligence or other offences.
This is not to say the RI will ultimately be the one held accountable for the above incidents – however, the recommendations from these reports are a stark reminder of the level of responsibility and potential accountability that could end up falling at the door of the RI.
So, my main desire for 2018 (and what should happen in 2018), is that companies take a fresh look at their approach to fire and security risk assessment, because it is my firm belief that the role of the responsible individual SHOULD be carried out by a COMPETENT person.
To help the RI understand, exactly why I believe this should be the case, I’ve taken a look at news reports on recent fires and compiled a list of some scenario’s where inadvertently, the RI could leave themselves more vulnerable to prosecution. This should hopefully help create a safer 2018.
In regards to building work and renovations on your own buildings this year
The fire that broke out at Nottingham University happened whilst the Jubilee Campus extension was being built. The fire was due to a fault with a temporary electrical supply to the building, which at the time was only 70% complete. With no windows or fire doors in place, it created voids that enabled the fire to spread.
Fortunately, in this incident, the fire service was satisfied that everything possible was done by the contractor in terms of checking the safety of any electrical appliance used on the construction site.
As the RI is it your responsibility this year to ensure all works and the tradespeople working on site are following the correct procedures all the time and that any equipment will pass safety checks.
In regards to building work and renovations on adjacent buildings this year
As the RI it is also a good idea to keep abreast of building works which may be taking place on adjacent properties.
As was the case in the fire that destroyed the Royal Clarence Hotel, the fire actually started in the building next door. As that building was totally destroyed fire investigators have been unable to pin point the cause. But it highlights the need to take extra precautions and seek assurances that the risks to your property have not changed.
For disused buildings this year – remember
Out of sight is not out of mind. If there is a disused building in the portfolio of properties owned by the company for which you are the RI – it’s still part of your role to ensure they are safe and comply with fire safety regulations.
For buildings of old design this year
Although Initial investigations indicate that an accidental fire within a vehicle caused other cars to ignite, was the cause of the fire at the Echo Arena in Liverpool that destroyed over 1600 cars, fire officers have been widely reported that had water sprinklers been installed the spread of the fire could have been prevented.
A council spokesman is quoted as saying the car park was fully compliant with all appropriate building regulations and met all safety requirements, however if you are the RI of older buildings, you should always be conscious of the impact new technologies and materials can have – ether in preventing fire or exacerbating it!
The above scenarios represent only a few examples of changes in circumstance that may leave an RI exposed to the risk of prosecution.
Tecserv’s advice to all responsible individuals is to always work alongside a BAFE approved fire safety specialists and fully understand the fire risks against which you should safeguard your people, processes and property. Lets make 2018 a safer year.