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Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

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Safe&Sound
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Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Safe&Sound »

Hi all,

I visited one of my clients today to carry out a review of the fire risk assessment I had done last year. Whilst I was reviewing the paperwork I noticed that within the year the fire service had come in to do an audit and had been given a number of remedies to carry out to ensure compliancy.

Such remedies included remove bolt system from door located at end of corridor, relocate a manual call point to be next to the final fire exit door and ensuring stair wells comply with requirements of building regulations. During the audit from the fire service I am lead to believe they had read my previous FRA, etc.

I am now in self-doubt mode and wondering if these were things I had missed during my assessment or if they were major things I should have picked up! My background is H&S consultancy with NEBOSH Fire Cert and experience with FRA in offices, factory, schools and care homes. I have been looking into other courses to under take to increase my knowledge.

I'm just kicking myself as to why I didn't pick these up and would the fire service be on my tail. I've contemplated on calling them to discuss through the audit but not sure if this breaches client confidentiality etc.

At the end of the day I want to better myself to be able to help others but I'm forever self criticising myself and fearing prosecution in both fire and general H&S.

Would welcome your thoughts on this or if anyone has been in a similar situation.

S&S
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by todai »

Wouldn't get yourself down. They're experts in their field. you've only completed a Fire cert.
if you want to progress in that field, get on more courses / learn from former fire service.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Messy »

Did the notice (what sort of Notice was it?) they issued mention that under Article 9, the FRA was not suitable and sufficient? If not, turn the page, there's nothing to see here.

I have found things years and many reviews after I first assessed a premises. Do I feel bad or embarrassed? God yes, but I would on the principle that I am a human being and not a robot.

Just keep studying and learning from others, from guidance and from yourself.

Have a look at this document. (click on the link and open document). http://www.cfoa.org.uk/12002

It provides a list of Articles of the FSO with a definition and then more important, how an enforcement officer should interpret them. Its a big document, but gives you some insight to the training and preparation Inspecting Officers go through

Chin up, keep calm and carry on (learning!)
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Andyblue »

Like you’ve said, I’d look at it as a great opportunity to learn and recognise what can be done. On reflection, had you checked the points found seen by the FB, did you miss it or think it was okay? Perhaps the sequence and routine of how the FRA was done could be tweaked. Had it been altered between your FRA and their visit. I’d discuss it with the client so they understand the differences and how to go forward on good terms.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by hardhat »

Just to put another perspective on it - and I do apologise if this causes offence - but this isn't a game. It isn't a learning opportunity. It's real life.

If you are not 100% certain that you will not miss a single thing, then don't do a fire risk assessment. The NEBOSH fire cert is nowhere near adequate to do a fire risk assessment imo - you need to have sufficient knowledge that you fully understand the limits of your competence.

You talk about fear of prosecution. You should be thinking about the fear of people dying because you missed something.

It may well be that the FRS are asking for changes that aren't completely necessary for life safety but just technical changes to meet ADB etc - but in my experience they rarely do that. If you had recognised the issues that they had done but made a different judgement, fair enough - learn from their viewpoint. But if the things they identified hadn't even been on your radar - I would reflect if you should have done the work. What else have you missed? Gaps in fire compartments above false ceilings? Inadequately sealing fire doors? A travel distance that is too long? A stairwell that would permit smoke ingress during evacuation?

99% of the things you miss will never cause a problem. But when they do, tens or hundreds of people can be reliant on them. You say you've done a FRA in a care home? Please, think long and hard as to whether you have sufficient, comprehensive understanding of the specification of fire safety precautions, ABD, BS9999 (or whatever standard you are assessing to?) in order to ensure the safety of those elderly and infirm residents.

I get that this post won't be popular, but sometimes these things need to be said.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by hardhat »

todai wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:07 pm Wouldn't get yourself down. They're experts in their field. you've only completed a Fire cert.
This. This is just so wrong - what the hell are you doing if you are not competent.

In occupational health and safety, if you DO miss something, there are others - employees, supervisors, managers - that will probably see the issues too. There will often be warnings - near misses, minor injuries - that may also bring it to light.

But in fire safety, YOU are paid to be the expert and look beyond the visible. There is absolutely no room for error - no-one else is likely to pick up what you have missed until 200 people are trapped getting out of an exit, or 20 elderly residents die because Mr Wannabe Fire Expert didn't understand exactly what he was doing, WHAT the standards are for and importantly WHY each element of a fire safety standard is there.

If you want to do fire risk assessments, you need proper experience with a time-served professional who will check your work, show you what you missed, and importantly provide assurance that each job has been done correctly.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Safe&Sound »

Thank you all for your responses and thank you @Messy for the link, much appreciated. There was no mention from them that the FRA was not suitable or sufficient.

In terms of what the FS found I would say it was either a genuine oversight on my side or issues that could have raised since I carried out the FRA.

When conducting FRA I read up on the relevant guidance such as; Fire safety risk assessment: residential care premises.
hardhat wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:48 am Just to put another perspective on it - and I do apologise if this causes offence - but this isn't a game. It isn't a learning opportunity. It's real life.

If you are not 100% certain that you will not miss a single thing, then don't do a fire risk assessment. The NEBOSH fire cert is nowhere near adequate to do a fire risk assessment imo - you need to have sufficient knowledge that you fully understand the limits of your competence.

You talk about fear of prosecution. You should be thinking about the fear of people dying because you missed something.

It may well be that the FRS are asking for changes that aren't completely necessary for life safety but just technical changes to meet ADB etc - but in my experience they rarely do that. If you had recognised the issues that they had done but made a different judgement, fair enough - learn from their viewpoint. But if the things they identified hadn't even been on your radar - I would reflect if you should have done the work. What else have you missed? Gaps in fire compartments above false ceilings? Inadequately sealing fire doors? A travel distance that is too long? A stairwell that would permit smoke ingress during evacuation?

99% of the things you miss will never cause a problem. But when they do, tens or hundreds of people can be reliant on them. You say you've done a FRA in a care home? Please, think long and hard as to whether you have sufficient, comprehensive understanding of the specification of fire safety precautions, ABD, BS9999 (or whatever standard you are assessing to?) in order to ensure the safety of those elderly and infirm residents.

I get that this post won't be popular, but sometimes these things need to be said.
No offence taken and I appreciate your response, I want to better myself and that was the reasoning behind the OP. Upon review and talking with the owners some of the issues noted seemed to have been implemented after my assessment but none the less there was the call point location that I should have picked up on.

When doing the FRA I always check for gaps in fire compartments where I can gain access, check and test the doors, looking for ignition, heat and oxygen sources, amongst other areas.

I'd be put into the position of doing the FRA from my boss who I shadowed and learnt from but now I'm questioning if the training and experience was enough hence I'd like to reflect on this situation and look at options to improve.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Alexis »

I normally would not intervene in fire-related posts, as I know our fire professionals will always provide their many years' Professional knowledge, expertise and good advice for anyone asking questions and always in the ethos of our HSfB .... "There is no such thing as a "stupid" or "daft" health and safety question!" ....In this instance however and having read all posts over and over again, I really must make a comment on some of the replies.

It appears to me, that some of our members think Safe&Sound is a complete novice and perhaps, (although I hope not) may have preconceived ideas regarding Consultancy workers. Yes there are some cowboys out there whom we can all agree should never be providing advice on any safety matter, but this does not, in my opinion, apply to S&S at all.

Safe&Sound always strives for a Professional Quality 100% result, as we all do in any Professional position we undertake, but as Messy mentions, we are all human and if any of us can honestly say they can meet these targets 100% of the time, then they have to be a relative of the almighty. This is just not possible!

In my opinion, the fact that S&S recognises there may have been a problem and is Professional enough to share in our forums (helping others in the process) and seeking thoughts/advice for his future FRA's from more experienced Fire Professionals, shows how he always wants that 100% plus, (if ever possible) and did not require some comments to make him doubt his whole Professional career.

S&S has been one of our members that I for one have watched from his very early entry into the Safety world as he studied hard. We have watched him help others in our forums by offering his experiences good or bad. He has completed and learned from course after course and come through every single one with Credits. We have watched him build on his knowledge and worry that he cannot meet that 100% every single time, but nonetheless, he still continues to move forward with his passion to help keep people safe in any workplace and always in a Professional and sincere manner. His only intention is to keep everyone safe and free from harm be they in Construction, an office, a Care Home or wherever. I personally applaud him! clapclap

Safe&Sound, please keep your spirit to succeed and the 100 and 10% you DO achieve, let us know and we can all .salut you as you deserve!

p.s. S&S is no relative to me. He is someone I admire and one of the many I have loved watching grow over these past 16 years of HSfB and its family friendly ethos. Keep up the good work S&S.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by witsd »

Firstly - we have all done it, to greater or lesser degrees. In an ideal world, you find the error yourself, and just have to explain it to the client without making it sound like you stuffed it up first time around. In this case, as Messy says, as long as they didn't single out the FRA as an issue, it could still have been much worse.

Now okay, the bolt system might be a concern. Without seeing it, it's hard to comment whether it is likely to trap people or not, but if so, then yup, you done goofed, but the other two aspects really depend upon the use of this building.

If it's occupied by relatively able-bodied, trained staff members who are familiar with the building, then a stairwell not providing X minutes of protection is irrelevant to an FRA which exists to determine the risk to life, not the adherence to building control. Similarly, an MCP being slightly misplaced is unlikely to cause a significant delay in triggering the alarm. Sure, both aspects ought to be mentioned, but neither are necessarily an issue. If the buildings are full of elderly disabled children (or fire risk assessors who can't manage to agree on the correct route to take), then this may not apply.

Assessors are humans, and humans do not get things right 100% of the time. FRAs also have to be suitable, meaning that a forensic analysis of the flammability of the carpet in one top floor cupboard would be excessive, which in turn means that some things will absolutely be missed. As long as you can justify the omission, then there's really no stress. You are only meant to pick up on what is reasonably foreseeable after all.

So yeah, don't miss these things again, but also don't panic and don't lose confidence - this has made you into a better assessor.

Edit:

If you are looking to improve, I'll quickly recommend the Colin Todd course. It's far more grounded in reality and dealing with buildings on a case-by-case basis (rather than strict adherence to guidance) than anything else I've ever taken.
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Messy »

Can I ask again S&S, what sort of notice did you receive . It is relevant

If you think about fire service FS inspecting officers as food or film critics and the assessors as being chefs or film directors

One role needs much more skill and aptitude than the other. A chef can take years to perfect their art. She has to gather their ingredients and by trail and error come up with a dish from a blank sheet. But a spotty ex grad journalist can wreck their restaurant's reputation in one ill prepared article aimed at boosting their CV rather than using any skill (in fact we all can all do that now via Tripadvisor)

One know-it-all film critic who has had a row with his wife about the DIY before leaving for work, may vent his anger at a film and cost it £millions. How many times have you seen a film, play or read a book and loved it when a critic has panned it?


When RAing, you start with a blank sheet - a building you have never been to before and with people you don't know, and you are there to conduct a FRA - its challenging. You need them to be on board, you need full access to records and if you are self employed, you have to be nice even to the biggest barstewards, as they are your customer. You need to develop a rapport, ask the right questions, be flexible, understand their business and diplomatically cut through any lies they may give you. I try and talk to staff and understand the business requirements. It can take half a day to several days on site and an age afterwards to compile the document

Compare that with an FS auditor who arrives with idiot guide check list and is in and out within 2 hours

I was a fire service inspecting officer. I worked with some superbly competent people and learned a lot. But I worked with some plebs, some narcissistic jobsworths who were competence light and power mad heavy. Risk assessing is flexibly applying control measures to risk is a bespoke manner and not using a one size fits all approach.

This is why I am interested in the notice. Some documents called 'Notice of Fire Safety Deficiency' look like an official 'notice' but are merely a memo. Yes, its an official communication from the fire service, but they are NOT a formal notice issued under the Fire Safety Order. Be careful as they look like an Enforcement Notice which is a much heavier beast with sharp teeth!!

So please do let us know what type of notice it was
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by Safe&Sound »

Thank you both for your comments and feedback. It's made me feel a bit more at ease and I have currently stopped any further higher level FRA until I've done a more in-depth course and feel more confident in the process. I've had a look a that course witsd so will be enquiring soon.

Messy, Looking back my notes and photos I'm now not sure it was a formal action notice at all as it doesn't state this on the letters. It stated that it was an audit carried out by FS of which fire management system and my previous FRA was reviewed and then subsequently out of this found some deficiencies but also provided remedies for it.

What also puzzles me is that how in-depth are these audits from the FS? In this particular case my previous FRA noted that smoke seals and intumescent strips had been painted over and were brittle. Yet when I did my review these were still painted over and no change...
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Re: Now questioning my ability to carry out FRA

Post by witsd »

I can only speak (carefully) about my own encounters with SFRS, which are usually through the quarterly multi-storey residential block checks that they complete and then send their findings over to us.

We deal with multiple crews in multiple stations, and the style, legibility and contents vary wildly by which team visited, on what day of the week and for how long. In some buildings smashed glass in a fire door is a mandatory repair which must be completed without delay! Only, it took them a week from completing the check to emailing the one page report... In the next form I read for a different block, there is some more smashed glass in fire doors, only this time, there are no mandatory findings, only recommendations.

A few years ago (pre-Grenfell, admittedly) I happened to be in one of six 14 storey blocks when the SFRS turned up to do their quarterly checks. They were done with all six buildings and back on the road in 15 minutes. I remained in one building for the rest of that day.

In conclusion, your mileage may vary. Firefighters are similarly only human and their opinions vary as wildly as ours often do.
We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because 'two' is 'one and one.' We forget that we still have to make a study of 'and.'
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