A Question of Ignorance?
The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is a fundamental change in the legislation concerning fire safety. Whoever is in control of a building is now deemed to be responsible for conducting risk assessments for the fire precautions of the building and for those using it. Most responsible people will not be experts so they will be reliant on advice from external persons, whether as employees or consultants. In general terms this means that those involved with supplying a fire protection package will share in the liability for its performance. This liability will still be there in the event of a court case.
Whilst the architect will design the required fire protection for a building and Building Control will check those plans against the regulations, the architect is unlikely to check the installation on site nor is this the role of Building Control. This lies solely with the installer, who can be prosecuted.
Specifying “fire resistant” is not enough, all fire tests are carried out on complete systems to achieve a specific fire resistance in minutes in terms of integrity and or insulation. Care should then be taken to make sure the proposed products have been tested to achieve the level of performance required. Deviation away from these tests, such as changing the glazing materials, will invalidate the claimed fire performance. If using assessments care should be taken to make sure they reference the actual test on which they are based and that it is relevant for its intended application. Contractor’s fire certificates are unlikely to have any legal status.
Information on relevant best practice is generally available from published articles, industry guides and organisations such as the Association for Specialist Fire Protection. Manufacturers should also be able to offer guidance on the correct use of their products. Ignorance of our roles and responsibilities is not a defence.
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