As part of Assent’s mission to champion the consultancy industry, Jess from Assent Risk Management has been interviewing experts from all sectors of the consulting profession. In this interview, Jess talks to Jonathon Quayle, a product development manager from BM Trada* on BS 9997 Fire Management standard and integrating with ISO 45001.
*Assent is an independent consultancy firm and we do not recommend any particular certification body.
What is the current UK legislation around managing fire risks?
Currently, we have The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order  which is what guides the requirement for England and Wales. We do have some separate bills for Northern Ireland and Scotland, but they follow a similar kind of guide. Essentially it determines who is responsible in terms of shared areas and spaces, in terms of fire risk. We have recently had, as part of the upskilling and the built environment, the Fire Safety Act , which has made some adjustments to this, which we’re still getting additional advice from the government to understand exactly what that entails. But it just increases the areas or the expected areas that organisations and landlords, etc, are going to be responsible for.
There is a lot of interest in the market in trying to make sure that we aren’t in the race to the bottom of our built environment. That we’re looking to improve standards and make sure that when we’re handing over buildings and then occupying them that they could be used to the right intent and that they have the right quality in place and can be easily managed going forward. You’ll hear a lot of things like the golden thread conversations, which are just about managing information and making this process a lot easier for landlords and people owning properties.
We’re looking to improve standards and make sure that when we’re handing over buildings and then occupying them that they could be used to the right intent and that they have the right quality in place and can be easily managed going forward.
How does BS 9997 help organisations?
Well, it kind of leads into that last point. At the moment, there is a lot of technology and understanding about fire risk and fire safety and how to best implement that in buildings. But what we see a lot of the issues that come about is when organisations [find] maintaining and managing that on an ongoing process is quite difficult. So you end up in a position where there are a lot of prescriptive requirements when it comes to certain fire safety measures. Especially passive ones. When we’re talking about compartments, fire doors, those kinds of things which are just there, they’re expected to do their job. But there is a certain amount of extra maintenance and care that needs to go with these. So that in the case of an incident, they do what they need to do. So having a standard in place that just outlines [and] gives a framework for an organisation to essentially work towards to manage these risks. Make it so it’s very nice and simple for people to just have the right controls and processes in place. Makes it so much easier for an organisation to mitigate the risks that come with not being aware of the things that they need to do or not being aware of the intricacies that go with it.
I liken it a little bit like when you first get your car. You could easily run your car without ever replacing the oil and only after a while do you realise there are a lot of issues in the long run. It’s a very similar thing with fire safety and buildings, [which] is that they can be put in perfectly correctly to start off with, but unless you’re there understanding what needs to be maintained, you’ll just miss the ball a little bit. So it’s just giving the people, giving organisations a heads up and giving them something that they can work with easily.
BS 9997 makes it so much easier for an organisation to mitigate the risks that come with not being aware of the things that they need to do or not being aware of the intricacies that go with it.
Who is BS 9997 intended for?
This is going to come to those organisations where they have a lot to manage. So you start to talk about buildings that tend to have a lot of compartments, so that could be residential buildings, but that could also be hospitals, schools, et cetera, where they have a lot of wear and tear, where they have a lot of people going in and out. So, as I’ve already mentioned, fire doors, et cetera, the maintenance and control that goes around making sure the fire doors are still working and doing exactly what they need to do in case of an incident, that is a little bit more work that needs to go on with that. Especially when you’re talking [about] doors that are in the thousands in certain properties. It’s really kind of focused on those. Plus, in reality, you’ve got to think of the people who’ve got the highest risk. So anywhere where you have sleeping accommodation or where you have people who may not be able to escape themselves without assistance, you’ve really got to look at those kinds of organisations and buildings because better management for them reduces a high risk, essentially to life.
How Does BS 9997 integrate with other Standards?
Luckily, this has been written in the same annex SL process. The plan, do, check, cycle that most people will be experiencing with the ISO 9001, [ISO] 14001 and [ISO] 45. If it’s going to be the closest to any, it would be the [ISO] 45001 standard, which focuses a lot on risk and opportunity but also on understanding the controls and processes of emergency processes. But it’s still its own unique little ‘being’ ; it’s not something that everybody has experience with. So it does require a little bit more of a technical [knowledge] surround[ing] fire safety controls, etc. That would mean that you would tend to have it maybe running alongside, but would almost have a separate team that manages it with a direct focus around fire only because of the skills that are required.
How is BM Trada working with the standard?
Well, for the moment we are aiming to offer certification to people who are looking to implement the process of this and want that third-party assurance that goes with it. But we’re also offering training. So we are the first provider [to offer] a BS 9997 conversion course which people will be familiar with, say with other standards like ISO 45001, which we are looking to get accreditation for. At the moment we’re looking at a couple of accreditation bodies because IRCA is offering a particular accreditation to that. Alongside that, we offer other competency schemes or certifications that complement it. So we offer competency around [the] installation of fire products so that we can test and certify to make sure teams are working to the right standard. We also do it around fire risk assessment, so again, we can certify and guide people in terms of what a good fire risk assessment looks like and who is a good fire risk assessor. So there’s a lot of things that we do offer as an organisation around this particular area. And essentially we are kind of seeing that these kinds of schemes are things that people are going to be looking towards because of just the demand that comes in this industry.
One of the risks that we have, as we kind of alluded to already, is that we will put everything correctly in place, but the risk is, once we’ve actually have, that it’s not maintained to the right standard. So you can only see more and more people looking to get some kind of third-party certification to make sure that the standards are maintained not just externally, but also internally.
Thank you Jonathon for taking the time to participate in this interview. For more information about BS 9997 contact Assent today.