A Practical Path to Competence

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  • A Practical Path to Competence

Simon Lawrence IEng MIET MIFireE, Ember Learning Centre training director, discusses how a pathway to competence can be achieved by SSAIB’s customers.

Firstly, in introduction for those not familiar with Ember Compliance, the business was established in 2000 to provide independent management system consultancy and technical compliance training for fire and security firms within the UK. Our services are provided primarily to assist fire & security firms in achieving and maintaining industry registration such as BAFE or SSAIB security scheme recognition.

Our objective is to actively promote good practice by improving knowledge and skills to both accredited and non-accredited firms. By engaging with all parts of the industry, we promote improvement in competence which leads to a safer and more secure environment for buyers of fire and security services. Ultimately, this brings non-accredited firms under the umbrella of registration through third party certification bodies such as SSAIB.

This article will discuss competence in terms of fire detection and fire alarms; however, the principles may be applied across the vast range of services provided by SSAIB firms.

One fundamental question which a fire alarm firm should ask is ‘is our staff competent?’. It is a simple question: the answer requires some investigation.

The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 [FSA], Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [RRO] all require use of competent firms and individuals.

Government guidance that supports the RRO advocates the use of 3rd party certificated firms as a means of ensuring competent contractors are engaged. Third party schemes for the fire detection & fire alarm industry, including the BAFE SP203-1 scheme provided through SSAIB, essentially require firms to employ competent technical staff. Scheme documents are written to encompass firms of all shapes and sizes, and as such they require determination of competence in the ‘context’ of the specific business. One size does not fit all! A simplified approach could be to:

  1. Establish competence criteria (type, scale and complexity of works undertaken);
  2. Evaluate competence against criteria;
  3. Action any gaps;
  4. Review competence and criteria.

The process of review promotes the concept of ‘life-long learning’.

BS5839-1: 2017 defines a competent person as being a “person with the relevant current training and experience, and with access to the requisite, tools, equipment and information, and capable of carrying out a defined task”.

A simplified competence criterion may consider:

  • Type of systems e.g., fire alarm, aspirating, emergency evacuation etc;
  • Types of premises e.g., hospitals, residential care, offices, sheltered housing etc;
  • Manufacturer training for products installed and maintained;
  • Applicable standards e.g., BS5839-1, 6, 8, 9; HTM05-03, SHTM82; BS7273-4 etc.

Having established the competence criteria an evaluation should be undertaken to ensure all technical staff meet these requirements. Should gaps be identified, it is the firm’s responsibility to ensure that any training procured, meets their needs. The type of training should be carefully selected based on the learning style of the staff and the gaps identified.

It is not seen as sufficient to only consider one aspect of competence e.g., product or knowledge or compliance or experience etc. The firm should evaluate training provision against the full criteria they have set.

An example of this would be a firm engaged to carry out work in a hospital. It would be reasonable to consider the following in terms of competence:

Experience (e.g., hospital environments, progressive horizontal evacuation), Standards (compliance), Product Training, Knowledge (dependant on complexity).

As can be seen, basic knowledge of BS 5839-1 may not be enough.

Path to Competence – Fire Detection & Fire Alarm Systems

Ember Learning Centre provides the following service to assist firms in delivering competent technicians specific to the type, scale and complexity of works undertaken. Each firm has different and bespoke needs.

  • Establish type of works undertaken;
  • Develop competence criteria;
  • Develop training matrix;
  • Identify training needs;
  • Prove individual competence;
  • Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

Ember Learning Centre can support evidence of competence via the RQF Level 3 Award in the Requirements of Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for Buildings BS 5839-1:2017, on completion of our Base Knowledge – BS5839-1 core courses.

Specific and continued competence is be provided by the CPD such as our CPD certified advanced knowledge courses.

Firms should confirm application of knowledge and experience by way of a robust programme of engineer audits.

If this article has ‘sown a seed’ we would be delighted to discuss how Ember Compliance may be of assistance to your firm.

Contact: louiseb@embercompliance.co.uk

Tel: 0330 555 0320