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Fire safety – the importance of third party certification

There is the need to keep people fully protected and ensure that the fire system is efficient and free of false alarms.

There is the need to keep people fully protected and ensure that the fire system is efficient and free of false alarms.

Why should end-users use third party-certificated companies when sourcing contractors for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of firefighting, fire detection and alarm systems?

Even with the best equipment, fire detection, fire suppression, gas extinguishing and passive fire protection systems are only effective if they are correctly designed, installed, commissioned and maintained. It is therefore vitally important that specifiers select only competent installation companies who have independent third party approval.

There is the need to keep people fully protected and ensure that the fire system is efficient and free of false alarms. Equally, in every organisation there are budgetary pressures that often make the lowest-cost option seem the most attractive.

In this context, quality can all too easily go out of the window. Unless, that is, the people responsible for fire safety remembers the obligations placed upon them.

To achieve accreditation, companies must undergo an audit

The legal obligation makes it their duty to ensure that the life safety system provides the highest-quality coverage and that the designer and the installer of that system are competent. Indeed, the law will always include the question of quality in equipment, design, installation and maintenance.

If a serious fire breaks out on premises, for example, investigators will be looking for evidence that all reasonable protective measures have been taken and due diligence exercised. Cutting corners could result in prosecution and a criminal record.

In this context, it is foolhardy to neglect the simple safety net of third-party approvals, which gives a building operator near-complete transparency and helps ensure quality.

Contractors may talk a good story, explain they work to the standards and claim to have many satisfied customers.

But how can they prove their competence? The most credible evidence of a business working to high standards can be provided by contractors who work to industry-recognised standards, and who then seek independent verification from an officially accredited third party certification body.

By using a third party certificated company, customers can be reassured that a contractor will perform to standards. Contractors that choose the approval route – which is voluntary in the fire protection industry – are those who are genuinely committed to quality.

To achieve accreditation, companies must undergo an audit to prove that their product or service complies with established industry standards. In Europe, some of the highest-profile third-party agencies include BRE and VDS for product approval, and BAFE and the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) for installation and maintenance.

Certification involves inspection by a certifying body, of installation and maintenance procedures and is a statement of continued conformity. The assessment involves continued (six-monthly) surveillance visits. They review designs and inspect a number of our sites for compliance.

When the system of third-party accreditation offers such a substantial degree of reassurance, why neglect it when there are severe penalties for cutting corners?

Liz Barbaro Sant is director at Alberta.

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