The dangers of fire have never been more in the minds of people since the tragedy of Grenfell sparking debate of varying kinds in our communities, but never more so in the property management community and forcing all of us to review our practices.
It is now known that the cladding on the Grenfell Towers building was not fire safety compliant and this has caused any and all managing agents with buildings with cladding and even those without to look with fresh eyes and the very best of fire safety procedures. The government has been frantically consulting with experts and putting out advice about what to do, especially for those with buildings which have cladding which may not be fire compliant.
Their fourth piece of advice is to employ competent fire risk assessors. As previously mentioned 2 Rivers chooses the very best advice from Cardinus Risk Assessment. These guys are experts in this field and cut no corners to give the best in service for all types of risk assessment. From this flows top flight procedures as far as humanly possible, to keep residents safe. It has to be said, residents have their part to play, such as not leaving burning naked flames, when either going out or to sleep. But in the case of Grenfell, what happened was beyond the power of the residents.
There has been criticism in the press that there is no legal requirement for the responsible person to appoint a suitably qualified fire risk assessor. The reason for this is of course that the level of risk can vary wildly between types of residential buildings. An 18 storey tower block has a far more complex set of risks than a conversion of a 2 storey house into 2 flats with the freehold owned by the leaseholders and little or no common parts.
There is a duty on the responsible person ~ that is you if a managing agent is appointed ~ to appoint a competent fire risk assessor.
There are some simple steps and precautions which can be taken to help verify the competence and suitability of a prospective contractor.
- Be satisfied that the fire risk assessor who carries out the work is competent. This can be demonstrated by them providing evidence of compliance with the competency criteria set down by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency.
- Check that they have experience of working for your kind of business and premises.
- Be clear about the scope of the work to be carried out and ensure that the assessor is provided with access to all areas of the premises and with relevant information.
- Obtain alternative quotes ~ make sure they all cover the same scope, so you can draw a proper comparison.
- It is advisable to request references from previous clients in similar premises types; ask them if they were satisfied and if any problems were later identified by the Fire and Rescue Authority.
- It is advisable to ask for proof that they have sufficient professional indemnity insurance and to seek assurance that the contractor is impartial and has a complaints procedure.
- Keep and maintain records of the steps you took in selecting your fire risk assessor.
The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (FRACC) has published a set of criteria on which the competency of assessors can be judged. A number of schemes offer certification or qualifications as fire risk assessors and the FRACC recognises some as properly accredited schemes. These are listed in Appendix A of the Guide to Choosing a Competent Risk Assessor.