Big Interview – Hayley Burgess

Hayley Burgess

Rebecca Spayne, Managing Editor or Fire Buyer speaks with the newly appointed International President of IFE, Hayley Burgess CFIOSH MIFireE C.BuildE MCABE MSc

Could you give us a brief insight into your career and your current roles?

After graduating from Queens University Belfast with a BSc (Hons) in Science, I commenced a career in Retail Management. This is where my interest in H&S began. I returned to university to complete a MSc in Health and Safety and found myself being drawn towards the specialism of fire. I moved into working in H&S initially in a Charity offering Supported Living to persons with a Learning Disability then a Training Organisation before moving into Private Practice in 2011.

I am the Managing Director and Principal Consultant at HB Safety Consultancy, which specialises in the provision of fire safety and Health and Safety-related advice for SMEs operating across Ireland and the UK. My Company offers auditing solutions, fire risk assessments (I am an IFE-registered fire risk assessor), fire policy advice and evacuation planning strategies.

I also hold a number of voluntary roles including Vice Chair of the IFE Board of Trustee Directors, Chair of the NI IFE Branch, Chair of the IFE Professional Standards Committee, sitting on the IFE’s Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Working Group, Chair of the NI IOSH Branch, Fire Expert Panel Member for Collaborative Reporting for Safety Structures (CROSS – UK) and most recently IFE International President.

The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) recently announced a new Board of Directors. Can you tell us about the composition of the board and the specific expertise and experience that members bring to the table?

The IFE Board comprises of elected and co-opted members with a wide and varied range of attributes and skills necessary to ensure the organisation complies with all relevant legislation and governance requirements and leads and develops the institution’s strategy, policy and goals.

Congratulations on your appointment as the first female International President of the Institution of Fire Engineers. Can you share your vision for the future of the institution under your leadership and how it will benefit its members?

My vision is to continue the collaboration between the Institution and other relevant stakeholders within the fire and built environment sector to share knowledge.

I will continue in our unwavering dedication to promoting equality, equity, diversity and inclusivity within the fire sector and also encourage women into the sector and promote their unique characteristics. I believe the institution will continue to grow and attract members whose priority is to demonstrate their professional competence through membership with an organisation which is at the forefront of professionalism in the fire sector. As the Grenfell Tower investigation comes to a conclusion and recommendations are made, registration of a relevant Register will become even more crucial for those wishing to demonstrate their professional competency, the IFE leads the field in this respect having recently become the first licensee authorised for the fire engineering discipline Annex of the new UK-SPEC Higher Risk Building (HRB) registration standard.

As the first female International President, what barriers do you feel still need to be broken down to diversify the fire industry?

I’ve been very lucky to date in my career and have not encountered any major barriers to diversity, however I am very mindful that this is not the same experience everybody has. The fire industry has historically been male dominated and whilst there has been a significant shift in culture there is still a way to go. The IFE are leading the way in promoting EEDI evidenced by the creation of our EEDI Working Group, Women in Fire Engineering Networking Group and Early Careers Networking Group. These groups will challenge the barriers minority groups may encounter within the sector.

With your background in fire safety consultancy, how do you plan to leverage your experience to address the challenges posed to IFE members by new regulations and legislation changes in the field of fire safety, both locally and internationally?

The most successful method of overcoming challenges is by educating and familiarising people with the changes. I will use by position to promote relevant IFE Examinations, Webinars, Branch Events etc which will all assist in communicating and enforcing the changes that require to be implemented as a result of the enactment of new legislation. I will use my international visits as an opportunity to ensure members are aware of the extensive range of resources available to them.

Competency levels in the fire safety industry are crucial. What initiatives or programs do you plan to introduce or enhance to ensure that members remain well-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge in this evolving field?

The most important and successful criteria for ensuring that our members remain well equipped to fulfil their roles within the sector is education and continuing professional development. The IFE is a leader in its field in that we provide an extensive range of Ofqual Accredited qualifications to enhance our member’s knowledge. The IFE also provides an excellent CPD Platform providing an extensive resource library covering all topics of interest within the fire sector. Throughout the next year our CPD Library will be further developed to ensure we are providing information on the most topical and relevant subjects such as emerging technologies, modern methods of construction and changes to legislation etc. We will also continue to increase our Special Interest Group (SIG) offering which provides Members to join groups of special interest such as the Facades SIG, Transport SIG, Heritage Buildings SIG etc.

I will also continue to promote our Contextualised Registers such as the Fire Risk Assessor Register and the most recent Register Higher Risk Building (HRB) registration. The IFE also ensures our registered Fire Risk Assessors demonstrate the highest levels of professional competency by being required to hold Engineering Council Registration at minimum level of EngTech Registration.

To read the full exclusive article and other latest news, see our last issue here.

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Media Contact
Rebecca Spayne Managing Editor, International Fire Buyer
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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