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South African Insurance Association

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Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) Registration Process: Fire Protection System Practitioner (FPSP)

Background
The effort to commence the Fire Protection System Practitioner registration process (feasibility study and draft policy) started in mid-June 2004 originally. ECSA had been receiving municipal requests from 2015 to supply endorsement letters for fire engineers operating in South Africa (SA). There is currently no undergraduate degree offered in the field of fire engineering in SA. There are a few Fire Engineers in SA who have travelled abroad to the UK and USA to complete accredited fire engineering undergraduate degree programmes, however, the majority of fire engineers in SA have either a diploma or degree in a field of engineering other than Fire Engineering, and after many years of working in the field of fire systems, by default, refer to themselves as Fire Engineers. Thus, ECSA seeks to regulate this field to ensure that all who operate in it by designing, installing, maintaining, commissioning and inspecting such fire systems are properly assessed to determine whether their declared competencies are authentic.

Registration Categories
Since the ECSA was taking on considerable liability by endorsing the competency of certain fire engineers, it commenced a review of the acceptance criteria in 2016 in an attempt to align the process with the normal rigorous engineering review processes. The ECSA seeks to regulate the fire industry and provide a measure of certainty to consumers regarding the competency of fire engineers working on building projects. The registration process kicked off by ECSA covers the three prongs of Fire Detection, Fixed Gaseous Systems and Water Based Systems only. The specialised area of rational designs will open for registration in 2019 if all goes according to plan.


Figure 1: Current ECSA fire registration categories

The type of work that may be conducted in these three broad areas of operation are clarified below diagrammatically. This means that a person cannot merely register for any, or all, of the three registration categories; the fire practitioner will need to prove competency in each, or one, of the below five specified categories to specifically conduct work in that area of operation.

Figure 2: Specified Registration Categories for Fire Detection

Figure 3: Specified Registration Categories for Fixed Gaseous Suppression Systems

Figure 4: Specified Registration Categories for Water Based Suppression Systems

ECSA’s Independence
ECSA is a completely independent party, with no interest in the regulation of this arena apart from assessing and reporting the competency of interviewed Fire Protection System Practitioners. It ensures that people who claim to be fire specialists in an area of specialty (fire detection, gaseous suppression, and/or water-based suppression systems) may be verified and then listed on the national database and certainty gained regarding their competency.

Those who apply for ECSA recognition and registration in any of the 3 aforementioned broad categories will need to submit Experience Appraisals (EA) for electronic review, the EA’s will then be moderated, and applicants thereafter interviewed via Professional Reviews (PR), after which the PR’s will be moderated. This method ensures an active engagement process between Professional Engineers (the judging/ review panel) and those seeking accreditation via ECSA (potential Fire Protection System Practitioners); therefore, the validity of any technical submission from the candidate’s portfolio of evidence is thoroughly verified.

Rational Designers
The registration process for Rational Designers (Alternate Designers or Fire Engineering Specialists) will have a feasibility study completed by November 2018. The finalised documentation for the registration process is scheduled to be distributed by March 2019. It is anticipated, and hoped, that the registration process for this category will open by April 2019.

How does this help Insurers/Brokers?
This greatly assists risk managers, technical risk surveyors, underwriters, business development teams and brokers etc. in ascertaining the competency of fire practitioners regarding any designs submitted (especially the sensitive area of “rational designs”). For engineers/ technicians that promote designs non-compliant with the codes, to which they should be installed, maintained, designed, commissioned and/or inspected, such individuals may be reported to ECSA, where upon investigation, may be barred from the professional qualification if found negligent in meeting the minimum standards in SA.

In addition, since ECSA is completely independent, insurers and brokers may trust the accreditation and recognition process of Fire Protection System Practitioners. Insurers and brokers are no longer reliant upon private companies promoting the competency of fire specialists assessed on private platforms and may now rely on the national engineering council empowered by government to do so.
For more information please contract Ms. Renay Sewpersad, MD of the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa.

For more information contact:
Office Line: 011 397 1618/19
Satellite Number: (011) 552-6909 or (011) 552-6910
Cell-phone: 079 940 7422
Email: Renay@fpasa.co.za