A Lack of Accountability

27 February 2023


A Lack of Accountability

Learn more about the lack of accountability in our industry in the words of our lead assessor…

So let me start, once again, by revisiting the Tek screw problem. Before Tek screws, we used rivets, and everything was fine. Then this amazing, one-hit fixing system come along.

It made sense; it saved time and money, no mess, fewer tools and worked perfectly with the new cordless power tools that were coming to market.

The Tek wasn’t the problem, however, it was the delivery of information. A decade ago, it clearly stated in the DW145 that the use of aluminium rivets should be at the breakaway joint. Ten plus years later we now have teams of experts who once again are going to save the day by quoting the guidance notes from books such as the DW145.

Let me get this right, nobody took any notice for the last ten years. Why do we think this was?

The design of the breakaway joint is flawed from the top-down; design, fabrication and installation. Most systems are in close proximity of other trades – all crammed into small celling voids with no chance of breaking away, as they’re supported by other trades usually under the systems access doors.

Another famous reference that’s commonly bandied about from the BS9999 (Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings) is annex W.1:

Arrangements should be made for all fire dampers to be tested by a competent person on completion of the installation and at least annually, and to be repaired or replaced immediately if found to be faulty. Spring-operated fire dampers should be tested annually, and fire dampers situated in dust-laden and similar atmospheres should be tested much more regularly.

Yet no one ever mentions annex W.2, Fire and rescue service access to ductwork.

Think about it – try opening a door with full BA kit on and in one of the worst possible environments.

This leads me onto the reality of installed systems and the third party inspections. The standards that are often used are for the product, not the person, which has had a direct result on poor installations.

Most so-called inspectors, many of whom aren’t even trade-specific, will read the product standard but have no understanding of anything built to or around the component. Some don’t even visit the install and simply rely on photo evidence. So, another weak area.

If the systems were inspected by trade-specific inspectors, at the correct intervals, this would solve most of the problems that have to be retrospectively resolved later in the build, or on the damper’s first annual test when the building is occupied. This in-turn mean the system has been non-compliant and unsafe for the past 12 months. The last 10-15 years have seen an increase in money making schemes; industry accreditation, expensive guidance books, third party schemes with incompetent inspectors, desktop audits using insufficiently qualified auditors, a CSCS test that covers a handful of H&S questions followed by a SKILLcard with no requirement to be skilled. I wonder what went wrong.

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