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Paul England

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.  

Paul England’s career has focused on fire safety, including fire testing and certification of products and systems. Standards have naturally played a role in this.  

How did you become involved in standards development? 

I first became involved in standards development in the mid- 1980s in the UK when the fire resistance test methods were being revised and work was being carried out to standardise the assessment of performance of structural steel protection systems. After relocating to Australia to take up a position with the Wormald Group to develop and test passive fire protection systems, I became a member of Standards Australia committees now known as FP18 and FP19 which at the time were responsible for fire test standards and the fire door standard. One of the first tasks I was involved in was to develop a standard equivalent to the fire door standard that could be applied to the protection of service penetrations and control joints that are provided in fire resistant elements which became AS 4072.1:1992    

What role have standards played in your career?   

My career has been focused on fire safety throughout, including fire testing and certification of products and systems, development of fire protection systems, and provision of fire safety engineering consultancy services. Standards play an integral role in all these activities by specifying appropriate benchmarks for products and services and consistent methods for measuring performance / testing against nominated benchmarks. There have been very few days in my career where I would not need to reference a standard at some stage.  

To ensure acceptable levels of compliance, regulation, inspection, and enforcement is often required. This drives a need for standards to be regularly reviewed to ensure innovation is not prevented or competition unnecessarily restricted. In cases where I am not directly involved in standards development, I try to find time to comment on relevant drafts standards.  

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

It is hard to pick a favourite, but I was particularly proud of AS 4072.1: 1992 Components for the protection of openings in fire-resistant separating elements - Service penetrations and control joints. It was one of the first major projects I worked on with Standards Australia and at the time there was no guidance available, and methods of testing and assessment varied considerably causing problems in the construction industry. Developing a standard with a blank canvas was a challenge but it was subsequently referenced in the Building Code of Australia / National Construction Code (NCC), revised in 2005 and is still referenced in the NCC.

The development of the AS 1530.8 series (Tests on elements of construction for buildings exposed to simulated bushfire attack) in 2007 runs a close second since it addressed a major issue at the time with test laboratories and fire authorities all having different views on how elements of construction should be evaluated which caused confusion and paralysis for suppliers trying to develop products / solutions. Eventually agreement was able to be achieved with most stakeholders and the standards were published and referenced in AS 3959 when it was revised in 2009 significantly improving the situation and encouraging innovation. AS 1530.8 series was updated in 2018.

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

My work with the Wormald Group from 1987-1991 was formative. I initially came to Australia to manage their fire resistance laboratory and work on development of passive fire protection products. In these roles I helped to develop, test, and bring to market a large number of products in a short period, but in addition I also ended up with broader responsibilities for managing a business unit that included manufacturing and marketing of passive products.  

In 1991 I established WarringtonFire which grew from a single person operation to a major independent test laboratory and fire safety engineering consultancy. I am pleased to see the continued growth and continued service to industry and the community of WarringtonFire since I left to establish EFT consulting in 2012.

Other highlights have been:

  • participation in the formation of the Engineers Australia Society of Fire Safety and serving as its President from 1999-2004
  • preparation of detailed technical submissions to support changes to the NCC including
  • Development of a framework for a verification method for assessing the performance of buildings exposed to bushfires
  • Preparation of a quantified risk assessment of mid-rise timber buildings in relation to a proposal for change which was subsequently implemented in the 2016 edition of the NCC
  • Preparation of various guides and handbooks to support the use of the NCC  

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

I think there will continue to be greater use of virtual meetings and other IT solutions to facilitate collaboration and the work of committees in the future.

Standards bodies will need to respond quickly to keep pace with technological developments and there may be shorter spans between revisions.

There will be greater use of international standards although national standards will still be required to define how international standards are applied to local standards.

The format of standards may need to be more flexible to allow documents to be developed to suit different readerships.  

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year? 

Standards Australia has played a very important role in the last century and will continue to do so in the next, but it will have to overcome a range of challenges.

Perhaps the most critical is sourcing the next generation of active volunteers that are willing to dedicate their time to developing and revising standards. Programs such as NEXTgen are helping.