Rosepark inquiry: Fire chief in call for safety advisers to be regulated

Fire safety advisers should be regulated because their work is “a matter of life and death”, an inquiry was told.

Brian Sweeney, chief officer at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, said the lack of any standard qualification was “a real concern”.

Speaking at the Rosepark Fatal Accident inquiry into a fire that killed 14 elderly residents, he agreed there had been “a material shift” in policy among Scotland’s fire brigades after the tragedy.

All care homes must now undergo regular inspections, including unannounced visits from fire officers. Fire risk assessments may still be carried out by third parties, however.

Care home owners, Mr Sweeney said, “can obviously attempt having a go at fire risk assessments, but in the main they employ the services of fire risk assessors”.

He said: “Sadly, as far as I’m aware, the law doesn’t require any standard of qualification. That is a real concern.”

To fix the problem, Mr Sweeney suggested a system similar to the Corgi registration common among gas fitters.

“If the Fire Protection Association were given some responsibility for registering or licensing individuals who would like to set up as fire risk assessors, the industry would benefit and professionals standards would be driven up and finally public safety would be well-served,” he said.

“This is a specialist industry where competency can become a matter of life or death.”

Despite his misgivings about self-styled fire safety assessors, however, Mr Sweeney admitted that under the new rules responsibility for inspection “absolutely rests with us [fire brigades]”.

The events at Rosepark, in Uddingston, prompted a reassessment of fire inspections and safety records, with a new memorandum of understanding drawn up by Strathclyde Fire Brigade and the Care Commission in 2005.

“In the wake of that tragedy both parties have looked at their responsibility,” Mr Sweeney said.

He also discussed the interpretation of previous regulations about whether or not Rosepark was a “special risk premises”, which would have afforded it extra protection.

“Just over 100” premises in his area had special protection at the time of the fire, he added, including prisons, the Faslane nuclear submarine base and chemical plants, but not typically care homes.

The inquiry, in Motherwell, continues.