Those who practice fire safety engineering throughout Australia should have competencies across 185 points covering 26 areas, a new report has found.

Releasing its fifth in a series of reports on fire safety engineering, the Warren Centre has published a framework of knowledge, skills and attributes which it says fire safety engineers need in order to fulfil their role in protecting Australian buildings.

In its framework, the Centre outlines 126 points of knowledge, skill and attributes which apply across 26 areas.

These are further supported by 59 sub-skills/sub-attributes, bringing the overall number of competencies required to 185.

According to the report, fire safety engineers should have a minimum number of ‘stage 1 competencies’ prior to graduation (see below).

This includes both a knowledge and skill base as well as personal attributes which graduates should possess.

All up, 94 competencies and 49 sub-competencies are needed prior to graduation.

The remaining 32 competencies and 10 sub-competencies should be learned during practice prior to accreditation.

The latest report is part of a series of reports which the Warren Centre has produced as part of a program to help improve standards and practices within fire safety engineering.

This follows a number of fires in Australian buildings over recent years.

Specifically, the latest report aims to address an issue identified in the first report which found that there was no agreed definition about the competencies which fire safety engineers should possess.

Defining these, it says, will help to inform requirements for the development of (currently lacking) accredited degree programs in fire engineering and the assessment of knowledge of fire safety engineers by professional accreditation bodies.

When designing the framework, the Warren Centre stressed that it has been based around a similar structure to the framework for engineering accreditation used by Engineers Australia.

The framework also follows the principles of what is known as the Washington Accord, which specified general attributes which graduates across varying disciplines should possess upon graduation.

Competencies Needed – Before Graduation

According to the framework, fire safety engineers upon graduation should understand the following as far as they relate to fire safety engineering:

  • natural and physical sciences along with engineering fundamentals
  • concepts relating to maths, numerical analysis, statistics and computer and information science
  • at least one specialist area such as fire safety management, human behaviour in fire, structural fire engineering, smoke control, ignition and flame spread, fire protection systems, fire dynamics, fire prevention, fire safety management or fire brigade intervention
  • knowledge development and research directions in related areas of practice which may impact fire safety engineering
  • needs and professional disciplines of others in design and construction and understanding of how fire engineering interacts with this
  • the role and activities of others in design and construction and how these influence fire safety engineering
  • the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of sustainable fire safety engineering practice.

On skills, meanwhile, the framework suggests that fire engineering graduates should be able to:

  • apply established fire safety engineering methods to help solve complex engineering problems
  • fluently and confidently apply fire safety engineering techniques, tools and resources
  • apply systematic fire safety engineering synthesis and design process.
  • Apply a range of services offered by fire safety engineering to the management of engineering projects.

Finally, the framework suggests that graduates should be able to behave with integrity, communicate clearly, apply creativity and innovation, use information, conduct themselves in an orderly manner, lead and contribute to teams and understand the legal and regulatory framework in which building takes place.

After Graduation/Before Accreditation

Furthermore, the framework suggests that engineers should develop additional capabilities after graduation before being accredited as a professional engineer.

These include abilities to:

  • Effectively manage ethical issues and concerns during practice by recognising and responding to ethical dilemmas; recognising and responding to illegal or unethical situations; engaging in reflective practice; and exercising responsibilities in an ethical manner
  • Continue to practice competently through ongoing CPD and competency development
  • Undertake responsible engineering work through consistent documentation of work; providing and receiving peer review; authorising managerial decisions based on an informed understanding of costs, risks, consequences and limitations; demonstrating responsibility for coordination and integration of design team input; providing design, construction, commissioning or other certification and compliance assessments; and planning and implementing best practice and continuous improvement
  • Develop safe and sustainable solutions which provide for safety of workers and others in design, manufacture, construction, commissioning, use, decommissioning, demolition, removal and disposal of plant, products, substances or structures related to fire safety engineering; take account of standards and practices in design safety; are sustainable from a commercial, social and environmental viewpoint and enhance the economic, social and environmental prospects of future generations
  • Engage with relevant stakeholders and communities through consideration of safety, environmental, public health or community interests and expectations; engaging responsibly with appropriate communities to convey information on the consequences of industry, business or government decisions and potential solutions to management challenges; taking into account the reliance of others on engineering expertise when engaging with the community; engaging constructively with clients, fire brigades and emergency services personnel and engaging with inspectors, certifiers and other stakeholders in regard to design, construction and certification of projects.
  • Manage risk though identifying potential risks which could occur from fire and related hazards; maintaining an audit trail of technical and operational changes; following a systematic and documented method of work; assessing the likelihood and consequences of relevant risks, devising potential solutions and helping to negotiate equitable sharing of costs and benefits associated with any solutions which are adopted.
  • Meet legal requirements and contractual obligations
  • Communicate effectively
  • Apply effective performance through building effective stakeholder relations; engaging in dialogue with relevant stakeholders; applying innovation and creativity; applying leadership and management of performance requirements (schedules, operational reliability, cost effectiveness etc.); and questioning any contract or agreement to ensure that project scope is adequate and that it allows for the possibility for suspension of work due to circumstances beyond the control of the fire engineer.