09 May 2016 by Catherine Nelms, Content Executive
It’s sort of like having good manners. The law doesn’t say that you have to have good manners, but most people know what good manners look like and that it is best to use them. Not everybody does use good manners, of course. Some people forget to use them or perhaps they don’t know much about good manners because no one has ever explained the concept to them.
But there is a problem with good manners, in that some people’s ideas about what good manners are might be different to someone else’s. Some people may perceive someone else’s ideas of good manners as actually quite wrong, or everyone might think that their version of good manners is the best and dislike everyone else’s ideas. When this happens, interactions between people can get quite awkward and run into difficulties. They might argue. They might be disappointed by the other party because their expectations of good manners might be different to the other party.
And that is essentially what it all boils down to. Expectations.
When people’s expectations aren’t met, that’s when they get upset. How many of us have had our expectations or hopes dashed because something wasn’t what we thought it would be? Add in the fact that perhaps you may have parted cash with for a product or service that didn’t live up to your expectations, and you’re probably more than just a bit disgruntled.
But in the world of the fire industry, if a product or service didn’t live up to expectations, then the possibility that it could impact people’s lives is much higher. We need standards to give everyone products, services, and systems that are to an expected level.
The British Standards Institute (known as BSi), together with the FIA, have been setting new standards and revising old standards for years – Bsi itself is over 100 years old, and the FIA has been working alongside since its inception in 2007. Even prior to this, the FIA’s ancestor trade associations FETA and BFPSA (whom came together to form the FIA) had their say in the creation of fire related standards.
But what exactly is a standard anyway?
“Standards are an agreed way of doing something, written down as a precise set of criteria so they can be used as rules, guidelines, or definitions,” explains BSi’s website. “They are made up from the knowledge of experts in their respective fields, e.g. manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, or regulators. Standards are designed to make things safer, easier, and healthier.”
Standards aren’t laws, but they are useful guidelines that can improve the products and methods used in the fire industry.
But what standards are, and what standards can do, are quite different. In a presentation by Brian Hansford of the Home Office, he describes how standards bring expert knowledge on a topic together, ensuring collaboration and consensus of the best practise to follow. We should celebrate standards because they drive up research and development effort and assist innovation of new designs.
“Installation standards give best practice on how to do things and a base line for legislation to call up,” explained Technical Manager of the FIA, Will Lloyd.
“Product standards produce an even playing field for companies that make fire products to compete against each other, with the knowledge that each of them is working to the same goal and performance standard. It also gives the consumers [the assurance] that the product will work in a particular way, e.g. “the smoke detector will go off if there is X amount of smoke”. Add in the reassurance that third party certification brings then you know that a) that is been designed correctly and b) that is been built right”.
But standards go beyond just setting a benchmark for performance: they bring assurance and trust. Think of the Kitemark, as an example. Most people are aware that wherever they see the Kitemark, the product is safe because it has been tested to an appropriate standard.
But as technology leads the way with new innovations in the industry, standards need to be revised to ensure performance and safety are at the optimal level.
“Standards must be updated in the same way that new words are added to the dictionary every year,” Lloyd added. “Standards must change to keep up with the times, as new technology and new ways of solving old problems constantly improve the products and the way we install them. It’s important for standards to keep pace with the industry.”
But if standards didn’t exist, the fire industry would lack uniformity. Everyone could just use whatever method they wanted, even if it wasn’t safe in the eyes of others.
“If standards didn’t exist, there would be a mess of counter claims from manufactures and installers saying that their way is the best. With no way of knowing who is right, standards bring consistency,” Lloyd added.
A world without standards would be a world without collaborative thinking. The creation of standards brings people together to pool their knowledge and expertise to create a better, and safer world for everyone. As new standards are developed and followed by businesses across the UK – even across Europe and across the world – new innovations are created, new ideas brought forth, and the bar of professionalism across the fire industry as a whole is raised.
And if you’re complying with British Standards, chances are that you are likely to be complying with the law (although it is important to be familiar with the Fire Safety Order 2005 to be certain). As a business, you’d be seen as more reliable and respectable. It’s all about proving competence and reaching the for highest level of professionalism for the sake of the industry.
When everyone is together, the sum of the parts is stronger than the individuals. That’s why, with the help of the collaboration within the FIA’s different councils, the FIA has been proudly working on the creation of new standards and the improvement of old ones.
What standards has the FIA changed or influenced?
“It’s probably easier to say what standards the FIA has not changed or influenced!” Lloyd answered.
For more information about standards, or to purchase a copy, click here.