After a brief hiatus due to the year that was, Fire Australia 2021 came back bigger and better achieving the highest attendance number on record. Such an incredible turnout reiterates to me just how important our industry values face time and networking with one another.
The feedback from exhibitors, conference delegates and sponsors was overwhelmingly positive as attendees heard from leading industry experts, witnessed new technologies and experienced all that the largest fire-protection conference in the southern hemisphere had to offer. To see our wonderful tradeshow please view our 3D scan: https://captur3d.io/view/fire-protection-industry/fire-australia-conference-tradeshow-2021.
A recurring theme throughout the conference presentations was the future of our industry. As we grapple with the increase of changes and implications of regulatory and policy reforms such as the Design and Building Practitioners Act or FPA Australia’s own Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS), many in our industry have been wondering, where does that leave me?
NSW Fire Safety Reform Steering Committee Chair Michael Lambert said it best when he remarked, ‘We don’t want to have cowboys in our industry. We want to have an industry that is fully professional.’
Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS), has been an overwhelming success in NSW to transition practitioners to the next level and set the benchmark higher in the industry. It all starts with industry culture when addressing competency and complacency, words that were used repeatedly throughout the conference.
Shergold-Weir report co-author Bronwyn Weir provided insight into how organisations and governments could work together to improve practitioner competency. She commented on the potential role of industry in education, accreditation and licensing, and said that associations need to start moving away from thinking of themselves as a club to position themselves as professional organisations.
When we look more closely at a building fire such as the Lacrosse incident, we can understand the rationale for the court’s decision and how it potentially affects fire-protection practitioners.
Greg Campbell and Simone Pappas of Pinsent Masons Lawyers advised that you need to deliver what you commit to in the consultancy agreement and, if in doubt as to whether something complies, seek the advice of others.
Practitioners should take steps to protect themselves and their reputations as well as fully understand their contracts and the scope of services.
It is also necessary to look back and acknowledge how far we have moved forward as an industry. Former Executive Director of the Australian Building Codes Board, Ivan Donaldson used his presentation to give a history of building regulations so show what has been driving recent changes to the National Construction Code and state and territory regulations.
Through several presentations we were able to draw close parallels between government policies in the UK and Australia and understand the impacts on local and international practitioners from the outcomes of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Dame Judith Hackitt noted that to change competences and understand risk, we must first change the culture – ‘you need to be aware of how your part of the job fits into the complex jigsaw’. It cannot be viewed in an isolated manner as this leads to outcomes such as non-conformance.
Chris Miles from UL International said that increased competence, improved testing and certification of products, and better enforcement are necessary reforms in any system to deliver better safety and create trust.
These presentations perhaps indicated where future reforms are heading, and the issues that the industry may need to address to ensure safer communities.
As we forge ahead as an industry we must adapt. Reforms can’t just be regulatory in nature – as Peter Johnson pointed out, fire-protection practitioners and engineers will need to take more responsibility for things they can control, work together and not stay in their own silos.
As Australia’s peak industry body for fire protection, I am glad we could give delegates the opportunity to reconnect and network. In light of the Covid restrictions that applied at the time, we truly appreciate and thank all the participants who took the time and effort to attend the event.
We are already starting to put together an informative programme for Fire Australia 2022 and look forward to engaging with industry as we collaborate on ideas together.
For more information, go to fpaa.com.au