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Being Prepared To Challenge Existing Safety Measures

Being Prepared To Challenge Existing Safety Measures

If you are reading this and are responsible for an occupied, high-rise residential building, it is likely that you are already carrying out regular fire risk assessments.

And you will already know that there are many factors which affect any potential risk and the impact they could have if something goes wrong. And even with the best will in the world, things go wrong.

To ensure fewer things can go wrong, the Building Safety Act will introduce new roles and responsibilities. In terms of safety, building safety risk is defined as the spread of fire or structural failure.

In our recent update, Fire Safety Regulations 2022, we share what is likely to come into force. Given these, this is a good time to think about getting prepared for new legislation.

Being prepared starts with being prepared to challenge your existing safety measures. The challenge starts with what you believe is safe. So the first question is – how do you know that you are really safe?

The second is, have you taken all reasonable steps to mitigate all risks?

These powerful questions can open up a can of worms, especially if you rely on records that could be little more than a set of tick boxes.

While no one is suggesting that this is what you do, it is incumbent on all of us to challenge ourselves occasionally. In challenging ourselves to be more aware, you could discover something that will save resources and potentially someone’s life and business further down the line.

In a recent article The Importance of Identifying Site-Specific Dynamic Risks and Failures, we talk about the benefits of using an experienced and qualified consultant.

Consultants like Sarah will spot things likely to cause a problem because a) they are trained to do this, but b) because they have lots of experience. And dare I say it, they love a challenge. The lesson here is like lots of things in life, issues and their subsequent impacts are not always obvious.

Let’s start by considering what do we mean by all reasonable steps?

All reasonable steps

There is no one approach to reasonable steps because every building will be unique. Therefore anything you do should be proportionate to the building safety risks you face.

The questions to ask are:

  • Have you got records of all the relevant safety standards that were in place when the building was built?
  • Do you have the relevant safety standards during any later refurbishment?
  • How confident are you that the building safety measures in place will work as planned?
  • If inspected, could you show that everything has been designed, installed, maintained, and inspected by competent people in accordance with legislation, standards, and manufacturers’ recommendations?

Action. Question everything. Just because a piece of paper or a log says that it has been done, has it really?

When working with Ligtas, we will ask you questions about your current and previous fire protection systems so we can develop a detailed assessment of where you currently are and what the future looks like for your fire safety needs.

Preventing risk

Preventative measures obviously aim to stop or reduce the likelihood of a building safety risk happening.

Again are you prepared to challenge how well your systems and processes are in support of your existing risk prevention actions?

Something to consider is doing regular checks outside of what you might normally consider doing based on risk. What do we mean by this?

Create a register of potential risks, which you probably already have and randomise the checks.

Once you have the information in place and conducted your assessment undertake reviews with various stakeholders to confirm that the information is correct. Use this as an opportunity to create champions who have bought into your health and safety culture.

And naturally, audit what you do. You may be surprised at what ineffective controls you might have that require more attention and improvement.

Early warning signs are worth their weight in gold. If more people were aware and reported potential hazards – which you were able to respond to promptly, you would be preventing more risk. It seems obvious to say, but chances are that most major incidents were preceded by lots of ignored early warning signs.

Measure, measure, measure

There is a saying which I am sure you will have heard of that says what gets measured gets done. Is that true in your organisation? Or does it get measured and filed away?

All systems rely on humans and are subject to the foibles of humans, the impact of which can be small and insignificant to a major disaster. Are you striving or achieving correct actions the first time?

Are there more effective metrics that you can put in place? Do you need better metrics to track the performance of your system? If you do need better metrics, what are they? It’s pointless measuring things that don’t get actioned. What we want is to be alerted of those all-important early warning signs.

The great news is that most organisations already have some form of information collected. Ligtas want to encourage you to establish a more effective risk management approach.

Of course, there is so much more we could be discussing about how to approach your health and safety in light of new legislation.

What we do know is that currently, it’s confusing and probably overwhelming. A case in point is the proposed safety case report (https://www.hse.gov.uk/building-safety/safety-cases/report/index.htm).

As the responsible person, you will have to produce a safety case report to demonstrate that you have identified and assessed the safety risks in your building. The HSE provides information to help you to get ready.

While Ligtas are currently unable to advise you of this aspect of the new legislation, we wanted to highlight it to you.

Our invitation is to get ready, challenge what you know and have, undertake gap analysis, and be prepared to dig deeper. In doing this, you will be better prepared when the new legislation comes into force.

Where do you want to go today?