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Safety first, schedule second: The importance of early specialist consultation in building projects

In the field of construction, the mantra “safety first” must be more than just a saying; it needs to be a pledge that all parties adhere to. Too often, schedule demands can supersede safety concerns, with industry professionals not always taking the time required to fully understand the safety implications of their specifications, when they emphatically need to take a more co-ordinated approach.

At Optima, we are unequivocal in our belief that engaging specialist subcontractors early in the project lifecycle has a positively transformative impact on the safety and efficiency of building projects. That’s why we brought together our recent Fire Roundtable to discuss the current failings around fire safety and to set collective goals towards a safer and cohesive approach to fire products. In our view, proactive planning plays a critical role in preventing common safety mishaps and enhancing overall building safety.

We are not discussing ‘Nice-to-Haves’, but essential parts of the construction process.

For example, in the wake of calamitous events in the UK, the government enacted The Building Safety Act (BSA) and much of its associated secondary legislation is now in force. The BSA introduces many new statutory requirements for carefully defined duty-holders along with a new set of protocols and processes for all parties working on Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs).

The new duty holders are; the client, the principal designer and the principal contractor. Each has their own set of duties and processes that must be signed off by the regulator; there are statutory duties to maintain a ‘golden thread’ of information for the regulator; and, in the case of work on HRBs, at certain stages, no work can proceed without regulatory approval.

This presents all parties with numerous challenges, but there are steps we believe that can help stakeholders navigate the new building safety regime and that our industry must adopt:

1) Lean in to the transformative impact of early engagement

Specialist subcontractors, particularly those focused on passive fire protection systems like fire-resistant glazing, bring essential expertise that can significantly influence a project’s safety outcomes.

Expert advice must not be an afterthought, it must be there right from the start of every project, the right people being listened to and having seats at the table, to ensure that the correct fire safety components are properly integrated into the building design and construction process.

Start as you mean to go on, remembering that every step is critical; specifiers and designers must look right down the supply chain to involve sub-contractors and consider what they can bring to a project? What are their areas of real expertise?

2) Be up-front and proactive about planning and safety concerns

It is imperative to identify potential safety issues before they become problematic. For instance, passive fire protection systems must seamlessly integrate with the building fabric.

If procurement is delayed and walls are constructed without considering these systems, crucial construction details may be overlooked, jeopardising both the building and its occupants.

3) Act early, to prevent common safety mishaps

Are your sub-contractors fully briefed? Have you made the right specifications through the build? Is everyone included? For example, delays in the procurement of fire-resistant glazing and other safety-critical systems often lead to incomplete or incorrect installations. Walls and other structural elements are sometimes built without considering the necessary integration points for these systems, resulting in costly and dangerous oversights.

4) Embrace the collective responsibility of fire safety

Fire safety involves everyone. From manufacturers to specifiers, architects, and contractors; every party engaged in a construction project must be well-versed in the latest fire safety regulations and standards. This collective knowledge ensures that all components are correctly specified, tested, and certified.

5) Take time to correctly understand and interpret fire testing evidence

One of the key challenges highlighted during the Fire Roundtable is the whether specifiers and designers are capable of accurately interpreting fire testing evidence. Specifiers must have a thorough understanding of this data before proceeding. If it takes time, it takes time.


The insights from the Fire Roundtable make it clear: By prioritising safety first and promoting a collaboration right across the entire supply chain, we can set new benchmarks for responsibility in the construction industry. Together, we can and must build a safer, more efficient future.

As Peter Long, Optima’s Divisional Fire & Certification Director, says, “The key takeaways from our roundtable underscore the need for a holistic approach, collaboration with suppliers from the outset, addressing time constraints for specifiers, clarifying responsibilities amidst regulatory changes, promoting a culture shift towards quality over cost, and emphasising third-party testing and certification.”

To discover how Optima can help your organisation proactively address these challenges and provide products meeting the highest levels of fire safety, please get in touch.

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