Categories: Safety

Fire Safety: Collaboration is critical to effective product assurance


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Anyone involved in fire safety in the built environment recognises that the challenges around product assurance are many and complex. The sector continues to work hard to improve systems and processes to deliver the recommendations of the Hackitt Review and rebuild public trust.

The Fire Sector Federation’s product assurance group was established to consider issues related to product assurance of fire safety products and the most recent in a series of workshops with industry experts examined traceability and specification. One of the most consistent themes that emerge in these discussions is collaboration.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s report said that the built environment sector, “Needs to accelerate the adoption of readily available means of providing product traceability.” This requires collaboration from everyone involved in the product cycle.

The introduction of the new Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) aims to ensure that construction manufacturers provide reliable, accurate information about their products throughout their lifecycle.  It will allow users easy access to all of the necessary details when making decisions about specifying, maintaining and disposing of their products. The Code is built around five ‘acid tests’ informed by the Call for Evidence Survey.

It said that product information must be Clear, Accurate, Up to Date, Accessible and Unambiguous. The new code is an important milestone on the product assurance journey, but it is voluntary and so requires commitment and collaboration across the sector. It is currently being tested by early adopters before being finalised and formally launched later this year.

Alongside the CCPI initiative, BSI has collaborated with the CPA to create BSI Identify. It is an initiative that aims to transform traceability in the supply chain by issuing manufacturers with a unique and enduring Universal Persistent Identification Number (UPIN) for every product that is specified and incorporated in a building structure. The manufacturer can tag the product with the UPIN to provide access to a page with all up to date information on a product – from specification, installation and maintenance to replacement CE and recall/safety information.  UPINs and open and accessible to anyone on the internet.

When it comes to specification, there are still questions about the ability to cope with the complex interactions and collaboration required to manage the multiple performance objectives needed at concept stage through the inevitable changes as projects advance. This becomes even harder when designers are no longer in the loop.

Many involved in the construction process are unaware of the fire safety implications of what they might regard as a small change to the specification.  The manufacturer’s specification could potentially hide important knowledge as well as incompatibilities with wider assumptions and key dependencies.  Specifiers are reliant on this critical level of detail.

Beyond the provision of accurate product information, the system needs engaging, competent people who understand how cost innovation and change can impact project delivery and how all this work and data can be absorbed.

More education and awareness, competency and understanding is needed across the sector.  The industry needs to embrace greater collaboration now to build on the impetus of recent years.

The Fire Sector Federation seeks to give voice to and exert influence in shaping future policy and strategy related to the UK Fire Sector. The Federation is a not for profit non-government organisation established to act as a forum for the benefit of its membership and to evolve as a central source of information on all aspects relating to fire.

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