A number of professional and reputable recruitment companies have contacted me over the past week or so asking if I can provide interim Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) work for social landlords, local authorities and the likes. My answer remains the same: “No.”
The reason for my saying no is quite simple…I am not competent to do this work. I have 3 months of experience in fire risk assessments for non-complex buildings. Housing with Multiple Occupants (HMO) and high rise towers are extremely complex and the regulations go nowhere near what is required to adequately assess risk of fire! For example, you do not assess the tenants’ possessions in a FRA. So they could have all kinds of exposed wiring in multiple plug sockets and I would never know. This is no reflection on recruiters as they have been overwhelmed with demand and are simply trying to comb through all of their safety professional contacts.
Back to my point though. How many people who have undertaken a course such as NEBOSH national fire certificate will claim to be competent FRA’s? Sadly, the answer is plenty. With rates being advertised anywhere from £300 - £600 per day, there will be plenty of barely trained, not to mention inexperienced people willing to roll the dice.
Professor Arnold Dix (University of Western Australia) says about Fire Risk Assessments:
"I see garbage day in and day out on these reports. Some of them are not fit for burning. They're complete rubbish and people's lives are depending upon reports that are totally utterly worthless, that lead to a false sense of security.
"They're done by privately employed people or maybe in-house people and are required under the fire safety order.
"The parts of the building that they cover will be all the places where a workman would work or a postman would go, including staircases, landings and boiler rooms. It excludes everything inside the flat; it excludes the external walls."
- Source, BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40422922)
My advice to recruiters and clients alike?
Don’t just take a CV and a fire certificate and assume they are competent because they have completed FRA's previously. I have completed FRA's and would not claim to hold competence. Remember to use Skills, Knowledge, Attitude, Training, Experience (SKATE) as your measuring tool.
If there are any buyers reading this article, please, please, do not put yourself, your employees or tenants at risk. If in doubt as to what constitutes a Fire Safety Professional, take a look at some reputable associations such as Institution of Fire Engineers (http://www.ife.org.uk). Look for professionals with a background in Fire Safety (Fire fighters, military fire officers, fire engineers, people with a degree in fire engineering AND experience of applying their knowledge, consultants with a strong fire background).
Don't have a knee-jerk reaction and hire someone because they have passed a course with a total teaching time of 120 hours...That is less time than it takes to learn to drive a car! Especially don't hire someone with a general safety qualification alone!