The Hidden Cost of Competence
ASFP Training Manager Chris Sharman identifies the true costs associated with the manufacture and installation of passive fire protection.
Passive fire protection, and firestopping in particular, is often seen as expensive, however, within the context of a construction project, the total cost of the fire-stopping package may be relatively small. “How much? That is way too expensive…”, “It’s only shoving a bit of mastic around a pipe”, and “anyone could do that…” will be familiar refrains to anyone who has carried out fire-stopping projects on site. But what is the true cost of competence and why is it seen as expensive, when we are talking about life safety? Perhaps, if we start by looking at those three statements we may be able to show how the true cost of competent passive fire protection is misunderstood.
How much? That is way too expensive
Compared to what? While it may be easy to say “If you think fire protection is expensive, try having a fire…”, it should be remembered that, although fire-stopping products may be seen as being relatively simple, there is a lot of research and development, testing and manufacturing costs that must go into such products before they get anywhere near a job site. Furthermore, for such materials to be installed correctly requires the adherence to tested installation details from the manufacturers. This requires a specialist contractor, with a level of technical knowledge that other trades may not possess. These are all costs that need to be factored in, and invariably will not be considered by those who are unaware of them.
Raising the awareness and understanding of other trades who are not themselves specialists but that may come into contact with fire protection as a function of their role is vitally important for the passive fire protection industry.
It’s only shoving a bit of mastic around a pipe
It may look like that, but is it the correct sealant for that pipe type/substrate/opening size? Would you know? Manufacturers go to great lengths to test their products with the typical pipes, cables, ducts etc that are on the market and this is an ongoing programme as new systems are brought to market. Keeping their staff up to date on the right products to use and the right details is a hidden cost that the clients may never see.
If we are to overcome this view, we need to educate those same people that it is never just mastic around a pipe.
Anyone could do that
This is true to an extent. Installing firestopping products and systems has no pre-requisite level of competence, when compared to electricians who must meet the requirements of the IET 18th Edition; or plumbers, who must be on the Gas Safe register. However, third-party accreditation schemes, backed by United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)accredited organisations offer the client a level of assurance that the contractor and their personnel are competent to carry out the works. Membership of such schemes costs the contractor in both membership fees, and in the time taken to train and assess their staff, audit the company as a whole, and keep up with the latest industry standards.
These costs are never seen and understood by clients. Until the construction industry as a whole, including clients, architects, consultants, Tier one contractors, and the other trades understand these costs and the more hidden cost of not appointing competent contractors, the opinions expressed above will persist. As a trade association, the onus is on ASFP and its members to lead the construction industry to a position where competence is seen not as a cost but as a necessity
Above all, the correct installation of passive fire protection to limit fire spread is still cheaper than the cost of having an uncontrolled fire.
For more information visit asfp.org.uk/