Ferm expertise in demand

Ferm Engineering
CEO Steve Burton’s passion for fire safety in Australia has led to him being a sought-after speaker at many industry events.

At the Australian Insurance Law Association (AILA) national conference in Hobart, Tasmania, on 30 Oct to 1 Nov, he was a member of a panel session on potentially flammable aluminium composite panel (ACP) cladding.

Fellow panelists were Mary-Catherine Thomas, Professional Indemnity Practice Leader at Aon; and Hubert Wajszel, Principal with law firm Barry.Nilsson.

Steve outlined the impacts ACP and expanded polystyrene (EPS) cladding can have if they’re involved in fires and ACP and EPS’s varied levels of flammability. He detailed the circumstances of fires that occurred at Melbourne’s Lacrosse building in 2014 and London’s Grenfell Tower in 2017.

The Grenfell Tower public inquiry, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, released its first report (phase one) the night before the AILA conference presentation so Steve was able to appraise delegates about its content. Click here to read the report.

Steve said buildings with potential cladding problems needed risk assessments to characterise the risk and cost remediation, but full ACP replacement was not always required. Cladding fires were a very small proportion of the thousands of fires occurring globally.

Steve has detailed the value of performance engineering, as an alternative to full cladding replacement, in a media release – click here to read more.

In his AILA presentation and during the Q&A, Steve outlined changes to states’ building regulations since the Lacrosse fire, but said the “wheels turn slowly” to rectify building industry problems identified in the Lacrosse litigation judgement (which is under appeal) and subsequent commentary on the issues, generated by discussion at many industry forums.

Steve says Australia has been too slow to react to a report commissioned by the Federal Government about how to remove some of the serious problems from the building industry.

The Shergold-Weir report, Building confidence: Improving the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia, was released in Feb 2018, but it was more than a year before the Building Ministers’ Forum committed to implementing any of its 24 recommendations.

Steve says the industry can’t wait any longer and needs decisive action now. “All state and territory governments should implement the Shergold-Weir recommendations now.”

He says Australia’s slow progress is a major obstacle to future harmony in a new National Construction Code, due in 2022.

Ferm Engineering regularly contributes to the insurance market with expert opinions and hazard assessment and risk reports.