Fire and flooding equipment: The common challenge

I was conducting a training session for testing projects with a new member of the team using a small copper valve. I’d chosen this job as it’s a simple product to test – Just connect the valve to a hand pump, increase the pressure to the designated rating and ensure it doesn’t leak for the specified period. It did leak. Water came gushing through the obscurator and the training changed from a demonstration of a simple procedure into a discussion about the next steps and corrective action process. I didn’t expect such a decisive failure – after all these samples were submitted to BSI lab to be scrutinised. Maybe it is “auditors luck” as it’s sometimes referred to.

I shouldn’t have been surprised though. It’s more common than not for the initial type test that we undertake for Fire and Flood certification to turn up some kind of failure. The situation is the same across BSI’s Personal Safety practice which tests critical products ranging from fire detectors to facemasks. The severity varies but it is common place for us to discover an issue of some description. The standards have tough requirements and the BSI lab applies them exactly. Earning the Kitemark or a positive test report is hard work.

This creates a paradox: Our customers come to us for market access yet the failures that we regularly find can stop the certification process in its tracks. Customer service is central to our thinking yet we often find ourselves as the gate keeper preventing a product being placed on the market.

How can BSI help?

We’re not able to offer consultancy to rectify the failures. We certainly can’t soften our stringent requirements on which we’ve built our reputation. What we have done is put a number of things in place so that we can improve the certification process for our customers:

  • We’ve automated the project tracker process so that our customers always receive regular updates.
  • We pledge that we’ll notify customers within 24hrs of verifying a failure so that they can start with the corrections as soon as possible.
  • We track the actual time the project has been on test and measure it against our contract (time on hold is not counted).
  • Most useful is our offer for pre-assessment testing for many of the key tests. This enables our customers to verify compliance at during the development stage of their product. This may seem like an added expense but could save valuable time.

We’ll continue to find failures. It’s what we’re good at. Now this is a strange pitch I’ll admit. No-one wants to encounter failures but it’s much better that BSI find the issues in our labs rather than consumers discovering them. Our aim is to partner our customers to be their business improvement partner of choice. Although this journey can encounter some adversity we’re putting things in place to make it smoother. 

Each time a product fails it is painful, especially as deadlines loom and expensive redesigns might be required. But with every failure enables our customers to learn more about their product, eradicate the flaws and ultimately produce a something that is better and safer. So send your products to BSI. Let us find the failures and lets work together to ensure the product is actually compliant.


Author: Robert Hearty
BSI Fire Team Leader