New tall building fire safety training partnership improving standards and saving lives

Tall building fire safety training, prior to COVID-19.

In the wake of the catastrophic Grenfell fire in 2017, this year the Government is taking its much needed next steps towards a safer future, through the implementation of new fire and building safety regulations in England and Wales. With the proposed changes set to have a significant impact on those accountable for the management of residential tall buildings, a new partnership between Tall Building Fire Safety Limited and SFJ Awards is enabling stakeholders to remain compliant and competent, improving public safety for years to come.

Last month, the Government moved closer to legislating through its newly introduced Fire Safety Bill (currently before Parliament) and the Building Safety Bill (due to come later this year) to strengthen the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) in a number of key areas, by publishing their ‘Fire Safety Consultation’ response. A vital step in helping to ensure a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again.

Guidance overhaul

Widely welcomed, the planned overhaul of the statutory guidance provided under the FSO brings together local enforcement agencies and national regulators to work in a new system to oversee the performance of building and fire safety. This will enable a ‘golden thread’ of vital information to be gathered over a building’s lifetime, ensuring safety improvement into the future.

Most notably, the reform imposes greater duties and accountability on the appointed Responsible Person (RP) for the safety of residents in multi-occupancy residential buildings. The RP will need to show competency in undertaking, recording, and sharing fire risk assessments to a high standard and be clearly identifiable, or fire and rescue authorities will be able to take strong action against those who do not.

With the consequences of getting it wrong so great, it is not only vital that these ‘duty holders’ have access to the right training, at the right time, to develop the skills they require but that they are importantly able to evidence them. As a result, hundreds of employers and individuals will need certificated fire safety training when the changes come into force later this year, and echoing the sentiments of Dame Judith Hackett, the time for the industry to act and ‘raise the bar’ is now, not to wait for legislation to enforce competence.

Russ Timpson, Director at Tall Building Fire Safety, said, “The new UK regulatory frameworks present an immediate challenge to fire safety specialists, social and private landlords, construction companies, managing agents and even residents, who must swiftly acquire the competency to navigate them. As the UK’s leading network for tall building fire safety, we needed to ensure we were able to rapidly deliver fit for purpose fire safety training programmes to help stakeholders meet this need.

“As the only fire safety training of its kind for tall building environments, our tailored ‘Tall Building Fire Safety Management Course’ is targeted at harnessing the skills learners require to take the appropriate steps and actions to mitigate and manage fire risks on an ongoing basis. This includes the need for employers to appoint a competent building safety manager, as well as create and maintain the ‘golden thread’ of building fire safety information in unique and complex tall building scenarios. The programme is recognised by the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), and is relevant for literally hundreds of individuals, employers and building managers today and into the future.”

SFJ Awards partnership

In order to provide assurance to both learners and their employers that they have developed the right skills and knowledge to perform their roles safely, Tall Building Fire Safety partnered with SFJ Awards, who’s newly launched Custom Certification service accredits bespoke learning programmes just like this one.

John Clark, Head of Awards and Assurance Services at SFJ Awards, said, “With the potentially catastrophic impact of tall building fires, the need for specific competencies to help prevent risk, tackle incidents and improve fire safety within them is immediate. The Tall Building Safety Management Course is delivered by specialist tall building fire engineers, technical regulators, fire safety enforcers and firefighting operational commanders to provide learners working in the tall building environment with the skills, knowledge, and behaviours they need to manage fire risk.”

The programme was approved by SFJ Awards’ Custom Certification and Quality Assurance team in November 2020, in time for the training to be launched in December. Russ added, “Becoming an SFJ Awards approved centre means the subsequent certification and qualification for learners who may take the role of ‘Duty Holder’ is invaluable. Individuals with this SFJ Awards certificated training may be appointed as a competent building safety manager or be required to create or maintain a ‘golden thread’ of building safety information.”

An initial cohort of 10 registered learners have already completed the programme, and a further 12 are due to start this month. In addition to this management programme, Tall Building Fire Safety will also be delivering other bespoke, quality assured Tall High-Risk Building Level 3 certificates in the future, including: Fire Safety in High-Risk Residential Buildings; Fire Safety in Tall Buildings under construction; and Building Safety Bill Higher-Risk Building (HRB) Duty Holder Awareness.

John Clark concluded, “The Government’s reform, together with Tall Building Fire Safety’s training will help ensure greater accountability and responsibility for fire and structural safety issues throughout the lifecycle of all buildings regulated by the FSO. We’re honoured to be able to further enhance the quality of such vital learning through our Custom Certification Service and in turn ensure that the public feel safe and are safe from fire, regardless of where they live, stay or work.”