Special report: Who's accountable for fire safety?

Trimble’s fire safety seminar addresses issues about who is responsible for keeping buildings safe from fires

ANALYSIS, MEP, Fire codes uae, Fire prevention, Fire prevention uae, Fire safety, Fire safety standards uae

Following the catastrophic fire at The Address Downtown Dubai hotel on New Year’s Eve and the devastating blaze that ripped through the Ajman One development in March, electrical and fire safety has never been a more important issue in the region.

Trimble MEP held a free educational seminar, at the Burj Al Arab, specifically to offer MEP engineers, contractors and subcontractors an overview of the key issues currently affecting those working in the industry. As well as a programme of prominent speakers, the event offered an opportunity for all delegates to join an open question and answer session and ask a panel of experts about any aspect of this topical and complex area.

Over 100 attendees benefitted from learning about areas such as electrical power connections to fire pumps, integrating MEP systems with building fire safety strategies and the effect of fire in MEP projects and facilities management works. The speakers were Paul Wallett, regional director of Trimble; Youssef Abu, fire pumps factory manager at NAFFCO; Joyveer Dutt, regional safety manager at Al Futtaim; Mai Al Qaq, senior electrical engineer at KEO; Aaron F. Vanney, vice-president of Jensen Hughs and Roy Hughes, senior support engineer at Trimble MEP.

The seminar was particularly pertinent because it preceded the release of updated UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice. Prior to the new code, the responsibility to keep completed buildings safe from fire resided predominantly with owners, tenants and residents, but a growing awareness of how this impacts negatively on incentivising fire protection among consultants, developers and contractors forced a policy rethink.

Going forward, main consultants, manufacturers and suppliers of fire safety materials will have to sign-off every project, together with an independent, third-party inspection agency, before being granted final approval from the Dubai Civil Defence.

Placing greater emphasis than ever before on accountability, it is hoped the new code will eradicate any buck-passing among project stakeholders. Ultimately, it also means that – should things go wrong – the authorities will readily be able to identify exactly who has breached the code and where the fault lies.

For MEP subcontractors, the implications are clear. Although it’s rare for parties other than main contractors to be able to present documentation directly to the Civil Defence, the move will clearly mean an increased demand for transparency, demonstrable safety implementations and greater accountability among all those involved with a project.

In order to do this seamlessly, it’s vital that all parties can demonstrate an understanding of potential issues and a commitment to ensuring their part of a project is delivered to the highest standard of safety. Whether it’s winning work on the back of a sound reputation for safety or showing how your own safeguarding measures are put in place, knowledge is becoming increasingly key to success among the region’s mechanical and electrical sectors.

Senior support engineer at Trimble, Roy Hughes, who delivered a presentation on ‘Safe and Reliable Cable Sizing’ at the event, said: “The Electrical and Fire Safety Seminar was a great success. The number of attendees clearly illustrates a commitment to safer working among MEP professionals in the region. To be able to bring people together to share knowledge about such a vitally important facet of our industry was a great pleasure and the Burj Al Arab proved the perfect venue for both speaking and networking.”

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