In June 2017 the world stopped and watched as the Grenfell Tower was engulfed in flames. Since this tragic event, fire safety has remained in the news as the public inquiry was conducted and the Fire Safety Bill continues to be drafted.
One thing that is clear is the importance placed on fire safety in buildings within both the public and private sector will continue to be high and measures for fire safety and compliance moving forward will be more scrupulous than ever.
As part of its ‘Know your Build’ campaign, The Fire Protection Association (FPA), is “urging those responsible for business and service management to go above and beyond legal requirements with respect to fire protection”. They are looking at how businesses responded to recent Covid-secure requirements and ask that businesses respond to fire safety with the same level of attention and commitment. The consequences of not giving it the attention it needs can clearly be catastrophic.
Figures released from the FPA, who analysed just under 5,000 major fires over a 10-year period showed that:
- There was a mean average loss of £657,074 per incident
- This financial loss covered damage to buildings (43%), business interruption (18%), damage to contents (7%), machinery and plant equipment (5%), loss of stock (5%) and loss of income or rent (2%)
- No building is immune from this; retail buildings accounted for 15% of those impacted from fire, 14% were in industrial and processing and 13% in accommodation.
These insights really do highlight the importance of fire safety for everyone and whilst the majority of fires are caused accidentally, 31% of fires are caused as a result of arson, further demonstrating the necessity of having a proper system in place to mitigate fire risk.
Over the coming 12 months, Complete Tenders expects to see this heightened attention and commitment to fire safety reflected in the number and type of open tender opportunities. Tender notices for larger businesses as well as SME’s in this sector continue to be published, with 13% growth in fire safety contract opportunities seen in 2020 (v 2019). Higher numbers of contracts awarded to suppliers include fire prevention and fire installation, fire safety consultancy and fire risk assessment. This article, https://www.thefpa.co.uk/news/sprinklers-to-be-required-in-11m-residential-buildings, published in 2020, illustrates just one amendment that now requires sprinklers in 11 million residential buildings.
So what does this mean for my fire business?
With a greater number of both higher value and lower value contracts on offer, this is great news for businesses and SMEs in the fire safety sector. There is a regular flow of opportunity and therefore potential for growth and longer-term success. As the public sector tender system is based on open and fair competition, if you have the right credentials, you have a legitimate, consistent channel through which to win more business.
Before embarking on these opportunities, it is a good idea to pause and look at your business to ensure you are fully prepared and tender ready. Ask yourself the following:
What does the buyer want?
For all fire safety tenders you will need a thorough understanding of what exactly the buyer is looking for. Read all the documentation associated with the tender. Check floor plans or schematics if relevant. Is any specialist fire solution required? Understand whether the service must take place during certain hours (e.g. installation/testing before school/after office hours). Check whether any security clearances are necessary, or staff background checks. If the buyer has a current service, is it provided by an in-house team or is it already outsourced to another contractor? Are they having problems with that service and if so, what are they? Think about how you can address those problems. Wherever possible arrange a site visit so you can gain a full understanding of the premises and talk to staff on the ground about what works well/what isn’t working. The tender process will also enable you to ask questions for clarification, use this opportunity to ensure the service you provide covers every requirement.
Do you understand the new regulations?
With the updating of fire regulations and the impact of the new Fire Safety Bill due, it is paramount that you have the internal systems and processes in place to ensure you are aware of the changes and can implement them properly into your business. Buyers/Commissioning Authorities will be hot on this and expect any tender to contain detailed information about your compliance with these new regulations.
Identify how you monitor and keep updated on industry information and appoint somebody to be responsible for this. Ensure they have the support they need and membership to any support organisations like the Fire Protection Association to undertake this role on an ongoing basis. Outlining this process may be a key part of your next fire safety tender questionnaire.
Do you have the correct accreditations?
Third party accreditations like FIRAS & IFC allow you to demonstrate your ability to supply fire protection to an accepted industry standard. Ensure your accreditations are up to date, documented and kept in a central location. If you are called upon to supply information on these within your tender response, you will need these to hand. It is also a requisite that any sub-contractors you use will also have these accreditations, so ensure you collect and verify up to date information from them as well.
Is your fire safety training up to date?
Details of what training your staff have taken, including specific fire safety training, and when this was last undertaken, should be kept up to date and documented e.g. in a staff training matrix. It is also pertinent to document the regular staff training you carry out each year and how you keep abreast of any changes in statutory regulations. Keep staff certificates on hand as you may need to submit them with your tender.
What is your MI reporting like, is it fit for purpose?
Maintaining and providing up to date and accurate management information is crucial. Look at your fire service log, is it fit for purpose, is it easy to complete and are the details collated in one central place. If not, take the time to get this process streamlined, efficient and compliant. Detailed fire risk assessment, reports and maintenance logs are standard requirements with these contracts.
Health and Safety
By its very nature, fire related services have significant risks associated with them. You’ll need to demonstrate robust Health and Safety processes and procedures, including risk assessments and method statements for all tasks undertaken, COSHH procedures and compliance with RIDDOR. The buyer will want to be sure that the fire safety service will be carried out with minimum risk to both your employees and their employees, along with anyone else on site and the general public. This may cover, for example, working at height, working in confined spaces, lone working, protecting the public, manual handling, asbestos awareness or accidents and emergencies. This may also involve working around children and vulnerable adults (e.g. schools) or patients in care (e.g. hospitals, care homes), which requires fire safety suppliers to have specific processes like Safeguarding in place. Make sure your Health and Safety policy is up to date, that you have other appropriate policies in place, and they are all reviewed regularly.
Once you are confident that you can answer these questions, you can then embark on finding the right fire safety tender opportunity for you.
If you need any support ensuring you are ready to respond to tenders, get in touch. Our experienced team can support you establish where you are and what gaps you may have through our tender-readying service.
The Fire Safety Bill – November 2020
Fire Protection Industry News - November 2020