Competency in the fire industry

Issue 5 2020 Fire & Safety

Persons who design, commission, install or service fire protection equipment or systems should have the required level of competence for the task they perform. There should be sufficient proof of relevant training and experience for the job they are undertaking. The onus is on you, as the client, to check out your service provider and confirm that their staff have the competencies to render the services they are offering you.

Below are some of the disciplines in the fire industry and the corresponding skills required:

• Construction skills for passive fire protection.

• Mechanical and hydraulic skills for water sprinkler systems.

• Electrical and electronic skills for fire detection.

• Mechanical and gas flow characteristics for gas suppression systems.

The Department of Employment and Labour, 21 years ago, saw the need to impose requirements for technicians who work in the fire industry by providing a vehicle for the registration of authorised persons servicing fire extinguishers. Persons were being killed by the pressurised containers that they were working on, as they lacked the knowledge and training to service such devices. These registration levels were expanded in 2012 to include gas suppression and fire detection personnel. The registration authority mandated to do this work is the South African Qualifications & Certifications Committee - FIRE.

Part of the mandate of the South African Qualifications and Certifications Committee – FIRE, commonly referred to as SAQCC FIRE, is to ensure that there are training facilities for all levels of registration which can adequately test and approve competency. This is in place from extinguisher serviceman through to fire detection and gas suppression designers. The training and examination are both theoretical and practical, which ensures that the person qualifying for a particular level or category is knowledgeable and well able to perform the task required of them. The one true measure of competency in the fire industry is the registration of a person with SAQCC FIRE at a level which is in line with their training and experience.

Caution needs to be exercised for those having experience without recognised training as their only proof of competence. Experience is good and important, but one can be doing something which is technically wrong for the past 20 something years if they were never taught the right way. New developments and changes occur in almost all industries and one needs to keep themselves updated with the current developments and trends in their industry. The fire industry is a life safety issue and it requires serious considerations, especially in terms of competency. Persons at all levels of registration are encouraged to keep abreast of the developments in their particular field, especially with the updating of standards and to keep attending training or forums where issues pertaining to their interest in the fire industry are discussed.

The skills required to design a fire detection system are different to those required to install the same system. Therefore, you should not let someone registered as a fire detection installer design a fire detection system for you since they are not proven competent to design a system, but they are competent to install it. A person who has been working in the industry for 20 years has no claim to competency unless he/she has been tested.

Charles Thiong'o

The independent inspection bureau reported that only 23% of all fire detection systems that they inspected in the year 2019 were considered compliant with South African standards. This a shockingly low percentage. What about the other 77%?

SANS 10400 T section 2012, which deals with fire protection, makes mention of a competent person as one who is qualified by virtue of his education, training, experience and contextual knowledge to make a determination regarding the performance of a building or part thereof in relation to a functional regulation or to undertake such duties as may be assigned to him in terms of the National Building Regulations. The document does not mention SAQCC FIRE registration, but there is absolutely no reason one should not be registered with SAQCC FIRE in their respective category if they are duly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization.

Kindly go to to confirm if your service provider has personnel who are registered.

It is definitely better to have your expensive, newly purchased vehicle serviced at an authorised dealership rather than by a roadside mechanic or by your ‘know it all’ uncle.

Remember it is your staff and your clients’ lives that innocently depend on properly performing fire systems and equipment. We continue to encourage all end users and consultants to only use FDIA registered contractors as they have the commitment, capability and mandate to ensure that not only is your fire detection system installed correctly, but it is serviced and maintained as per the required standards and regulations.

Kindly note that the FDIA is no longer issuing membership certificates to its members due to several non-FDIA registered companies faking FDIA membership certificates. Please visit our website to see the current and active members of the FDIA.

For comments and enquiries please contact the the FDIA on


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