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Improve the education and professional competency of fire safety engineers

What we did and why

Fire safety engineers play a are vital role in ensuring the fire safety of buildings.

The VBA supported the Professionalising Fire Safety Engineering research project run by The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering at the University of Sydney to lift the standards and professionalisation of fire safety engineers.

What we found

The Warren Centre research introduced new, world class thinking on fire safety reforms, and registration, competency and education of fire safety engineers at a state and national level.

The Warren Centre released nine reports in this project.

The reports identify shortcomings in the education, competencies, accreditation and registration of fire safety engineers. The final report calls for substantial reforms to existing frameworks including the clear recognition and accreditation of the fire safety engineer as the professional responsible for delivering the design of the fire safety strategy that is the basis for the fire safety of a building. The benefits of such reforms include improved competencies, culture and ethics for industry professionals, improved safety of buildings for occupants, fire authorities and the general community, and national consistency in regulations.

The report examines the requirements or controls over fire safety engineers employed or engaged in the building industry.

The report discusses the current status of education and training of fire safety engineers, and the competencies expected of a fire safety engineering professional.

The report takes a closer look at international guidelines and methods used and considers where fundamental change is needed for Australia.

The report explores the future role, competencies, education, accreditation, audit and enforcement and regulatory controls for fire safety engineering in Australia.

The report points towards an accreditation framework for professional engineers in fire safety.

The report addresses the resource and skill constraints hindering the full professionalisation of fire safety engineering, in order to one day achieve a sustainable provision of fire safety engineering professionals.

The report sets a plan for how Australia should assess and accredit engineers who seek to practice fire safety design and take responsibility for public safety in their work.

The report develops a pragmatic plan on a transition from the current state of fire safety engineering and design in Australia to the required regulatory, education, accreditation and registration state to ensure a full and proper profession for fire safety engineers.

This report provides a review of four guidance documents for fire safety engineering to determine their suitability for use in Australia.

What difference this made

The research reports have been shared with government, regulators, professional and industry associations, and practitioners to improve the education, roles and competencies of fire safety engineers. The research reports have also been shared with the Expert Panel for the Building System Review.

We developed strong networks with industry and research partners through this collaboration. To make the best use of the research findings, we hosted a series of workshops with The Warren Centre in February 2020. Facilitated by Professor Jose Torero, an eminent academic and fire safety engineer from the University College London, the workshops helped bring together industry, government, university leaders and practitioners.

The workshops identified that industry and universities support improving the professional skills and accreditation of fire safety engineers, but there are challenges that need to be addressed. The workshops also helped VBA regulatory staff broaden their understanding of international approaches to cladding identification and rectification, and the critical factors for assessing fire safety of buildings. Insights from these workshops will inform future ways we can advocate to improve the building regulatory system.

The VBA continues to engage with industry, professional associations, government and other regulators to promote improvements to the regulatory framework for fire safety engineering.