Post the Grenfell fire in June 2017, both the insurance and lending industry have become extremely risk averse regarding fire.
This is having a major impact on Professional Indemnity cover across the whole built environment sector, which includes fire risk assessors, fire engineers, architects and building control when assessing risks associated with fire.
We understand that the Government is aware of all these growing problems and has been endeavouring to find a way through by holding meetings with insurers and lenders alike – but so far there has been no breakthrough!
It remains the policy of the Institute to recommend to all members that they protect themselves with adequate Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance cover. Along with updated CPD we certainly require it of all those members who are listed on our Tiered Fire Risk Assessors Register (TFRAR).
Unfortunately, at renewal of policies a number of our members have found that their insurer had inserted (without prior notification in many cases) a caveat in their policy document that they would not be insured for inspecting and reporting on external wall finishes like cladding on buildings. It appears that this caveat may have been inserted by a number of insurers into policies for fire risk assessors and fire engineers.
The Institute raised this concern with a number of insurers, brokers, the Association of British Insurers (ABI). and even the Head of the Home Office Fire Safety Reform Team. It seems that brokers themselves are finding it difficult to arrange cover with some insurance companies.
The Institute is grateful to those members on our TFRAR who responded to a recent survey on their particular insurers, information from which was most useful.
It appears that the companies, Hiscox, XL Catlin (AXA) and Merkel are the most high profile in the PI market, albeit at varying premium costs. Unfortunately, only six of the members who responded to the survey reported having suitable cover to permit cladding inspections etc.
Other members continue to carry out fire risk assessments but have a caveat included in their policies to the effect that they are excluded from undertaking cladding work.
RICS Form EWS1
Members may recall that in order to help move the housing market forward the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) designed the form EWS1 which they suggested could be signed by fire engineers to approve or otherwise, what material(s) was on the external walls of buildings
In June 2020 we advised our members NOT to use the form as to do so could compromise their insurance cover if it does not allow them to inspect cladding on buildings. This was because, by implication, they could ultimately be held liable for their observations when completing the EWS1. The advice we gave members was further supported by a guidance document issued by the Fire Industries Association (FIA) which we circulated to all members and is posted on our website.
Our Chairman has recently been in contact with the RICS regarding any update on the use of the form. The response was inconclusive as the RICS said they had only recently clarified where they see the form being used for buildings below 18m in height. [Details can be found in the Q&A (fire safety) section of their website on www.risc.org.] It was reported that they are close to releasing a guidance note for valuers which will include a risk matrix.
Understandably, this is somewhat complicated but is being delivered at pace despite the complexity of the issue.
Support for our Members
The Institute’s investigations have narrowed down the field to three brokers and insurers currently covering our members. These are believed the most likely to understand the work and competency of fire risk assessors in the market.
Details of these are included in the table below, which we hope will be of use to members at this problematic time.
We regret that due to the circumstances in the market generally, none are currently able to offer a discount to IFSM members.
|Broker||Contact name||Address & details||Insurance companies|
XL Catlin (AXA)
Bennett Christmas Insurance Brokers
(Formerly Sennett Insurance)
1 Oak House
Various in market
|Griffith and Armour||Craig Roberts
Professional Risks Director
One America Square
0203 409 8571
|Various in market as would be a new project for them (Don’t usually deal with FIRE).|
Here is the latest copy of the draft Building Safety Bill which is going through its consultation stages at the moment. It is different from the draft fire safety bill as it deals with the wider issues from the DJH report dealing directly with building safety and how it is regulated and managed in the future. A lot of reading and the bill and its systems appear quite complex but I am sure in the months ahead all will be revealed!
Download the draft Building Safety Bill here or view belowDraft_Building_Safety_Bill_PART_1
Please see below a link to the new guidance on returning to work issued by the UK Government. I am sure it will also be valid or act as a benchmark at some time for members who are working in non UK countries as well. As we see more sectors returning to work we thought it would be useful to share a link to the government guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are eight guides which cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.
We are all hopeful that recovery from the pandemic can start soon and thoughts are now turning towards economic revival.
The Fire Sector Federation, who we are a member of, wishes to assist where it can in this process, for example, by working with others to solve any issues by informing or requesting support from government and others.
With this in mind this note has been prepared by the Federation for use both as an aid and a stimulus to all members, and for any comments and ideas that you would wish the Institute and Federation to consider.Fire Sector Federation Revival Planning
As a Nation we find ourselves in very unfamiliar waters during the current pandemic and as an Institute we have discussed the current situation during our online meetings.
Our thoughts go out to all people involved on the frontline in this situation.
We value our members greatly and without you there would be no organisation to drive our message forward into the future. We are aware that some members may have fallen on difficult times and hardship and we are asking any members who may not be able to pay their fees at present please contact Richard on email@example.com or Bridget on firstname.lastname@example.org
We aim to defer the payment and will review this month by month for a period of time or until circumstances change.
As an organisation we want to be flexible and supportive to our members and we feel this is the right time to offer that support. Please be assured that all information will be dealt with in confidence.
Again, many thanks for your continued support of the institute, Stay Safe…
The Government has published the results of the Building a Safer Future consultation and the two outcomes, Response and Economic Impact, can be found at:
I am sure that at this time most of you will be able to find time to read these documents!
Council member and Life Vice President John O’Sullivan has kindly shared with us Bureau Veritas Emergency Preparedness Pack which can be used by all members and their clients. Grateful thanks to John and BV for sharing this preparedness pack with all of us.Bureau Veritas Emergency Preparedness Pack 2020 V.2 (1)
We have received a few queries asking if fire risk assessors and those linked with the fire industry are classed as ‘key workers’.
The Institute’s clear position is in supporting the Government and the main information and guidance for employees and employers is set out on the Governments website, including definitions of ‘key workers’.
The Institute is not in a position to make individual judgements, but clearly, we are all in the business of assessing risk and therefore that call has to be with yourself, and if fire life safety issues outweigh, in any single case, the threat to life from COVID – 19 then the judgment has to rest with the individual assessor and the call should be ‘is my movement and task essential to support critical infrastructure?’. If not, Council advice is: –
do not travel, stay at home and support crucial national infrastructure in this way.
Rest assured, Council members are taking this ‘time out’ to work from our isolated positions on some critical details and papers which will define the future of fire risk assessment, fire risk assessors competency and fire risk assessors themselves!
As you all are aware, the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) is a topic of conversation and concern. This note is intended to give you guidance and will be updated as the ongoing situation changes. IFSM is keen to protect the health & safety of its staff, members and visitors.
The current situation is changing daily, but the government advice currently is to continue business as normal and we remain fully operational, until such time that the government or our landlords (The Building Centre) advise otherwise. This includes continuing with meetings, events and membership applications.
We understand some members will have concerns over travel etc therefore, we will respect any members decision regarding travel and non-attendance. Alongside everyone else, the IFSM will keep an eye on the developing situation and advise and act accordingly. Further updates will be provided as the situation develops.
If you have any symptoms of illness that could be associated with COVID-19, starting with a fever but including headaches, persistent dry cough or other cold and flu symptoms then please do not attend any of our meetings. If you are worried that you may have symptoms of the virus or have any reason to suspect that you may have become infected with the COVID-19 virus you should self-isolate and call the NHS 111 number. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment.
A number of our members may express an unwillingness to have personal contact during these uncertain times and it is suggested that out of common courtesy, members and staff do not risk offence by offering handshakes or any other form of personal greeting that requires physical contact with any other person, unless this is mutually agreed in advance.
Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
• put used tissues in the bin straight away
• wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
• try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
• clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
• do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
When attending meetings in the IFSM office, please be aware that this is a place of employment and follow PHE advice now and in the future. For visitors to our office, we have supplied tissues and anti-bacterial wipes for your use.
If you have any concerns, please speak with the IFSM Business Support Manager or another senior member of staff privately.
We have received notification regarding the proposed consultation by BSI for PAS 79 1 and 2. A public consultation will take place around mid-next year on these two documents.
We will be responding at the time via our Technical Sub Group but will also contact all members to collate any views you may have as part of the consultation process.PAS 79 Review Panel Overview