Are PN22 statements and PS4s working for you?

a final point. Apparently IFE is looking to become a special interest group inside ENZ. I have to ask why? The IFE is a Fire Service vehicle (I am a Member since 1999 when I was in the UK Brigade).

If the membership of IFE want to be part of the discussions within ENZ then the route is probably that the IFE members become Friends of the SFPE SIG. just a thought…why open the door to the IFE and therefore the fire service to influence the Engineering body (when they are mostly non engineers?

Hi Michael
As the balance of feedback on the forum and therefore for comment has the overall outcome that you described in your first section as points 1,2 3 and 4 then surely SFPE should be approaching ENZ with the request to address this issue as given in your points 1 and 2. With 1 issued ASAP and subject to change dependant on correct legal advice.
That would seem to be the balance of the discussion on the forum.

It would be grossly unfair to the people posting o the forum to ignore their views. If comments are not on the forum that you are considering then there remains the issue that “history is written by the one who holds the pen” what I mean by that is that you have the ability to either follow the line on the forum, or take “hidden” comments and provide feedback. You (the SFPE) should follow the forum comments, otherwise it makes a mockery of the forum itself and throws the question about the use and validity of it as the discussion platform.

I don’t want 3, 4 and 5 as the initial solution. 1 and 2 are the ones that will protect the individual engineers…


Alan, I agree.
Construction monitoring is a trade skill, not an engineering discipline. We are not building inspectors, nor do we carry appropriate liability cover to undertake this work.

Construction stills are not taught in universities for a reason. I do not intent to upskill myself in the intricacies of carpentry, steel form work, plumbing, electrical etc, and at the at the risk of sounding elitist, I did not undertake 6 years of university study to spend my time as a building inspector. Training CPEng fire engineers up to do this work is not the answer to address what is really a BCA resourcing and liability issue.

Issuing a PS4 is building certification by another name. Why would we want to go there when you look at what happened to private certifiers over leaky buildings?


That is one aspect that I had not considered. Issuing a PS4 is certification by another route. Private Certifiers had an interesting time about 10 years ago…why we are being pushed that way is beyond me…all to address a resource and competency issue of the BCA.

I entirely agree with you Alan, as do a number of fire engineers I have talked to, particularly in the smaller companies where the risk of being personally sued is more well known and there are a number of cases. SFPE need to start with item 1 while we get advice ( item 2 ). Everything else will follow on form that.
I have got legal advice at my cost, and hence why I have been so concerned about this issue for some time.

I think so as well Geoff. There are a lot of people out there who don’t understand PS4 and what liability they bring and they don’t remember the Private Certifiers issues to do with inspections and signing off buildings (effectively what a PS4 is tot he fire engineer). I know of one ex private certifier who has only just come out of the last claim against them - lodged weeks before the 10 year deadline, which cost them 10s of thousands from their own pocket as the signatory.

If training isnneeded then that should be targeted to the SFPE membership from a Lawyer - before we are sent down the river carrying all of the risk for no return.

Hi all,

Having listened to the various opinions put forward and thought about the subject more, I would like to express my individual perspective as an owner of a small consulting practice on the proposal of collectively refusing to provide PS4’s. To be clear this is not necesarily the perspective of the SFPE or executive.

In my opinion having a blanket policy of refusing to issue PS4’s will not achieve the desired result of eliminating liability. It would be interesting to find out if it has made positive difference to architects. If we are concerned about liability due to poor construction we should be using our power of refusing to sign PS4’s to prevent issuing of a CCC until we are satisfied either through our own inspections or by someone we can trust that the building is safe to occupy rather than running away from the problem and letting people occupy unsafe buildings.

Whether or not we engage in construction monitoring or write PS4’s, if buildings are built poorly, lawyers will eventually find an angle on us. A recent litigation case I was involved with, the lawyer rang me on a monthly basis for 12 consecutive months with arguements as to why a fire engineer who did not carry out any construction monitoring was liable for defective construction. Every piece of correspondence was mulled over in detail to see if it constituted liability. This shows the level of persistence from lawyers. I remember listening to Paul Grimshaw who spoke at a FireNZ conference say as his opening line to the audience, “you are all potential targets or clients. For your sakes you should hope I am representing you.” Having seen him in action I would agree.

In 2018 I will have had my own consulting business for 20 years so minimising my exposure to risk has been on my mind most days over that 20 year period. When I first started my company I sought my PI insurance through CEAS a group insurance scheme run by consulting engineers for consulting engineers. Every years they have a road show pointing out to their members (many sole trader companies) insurance claims and what went wrong and lessons learnt. Based on their experience even if you are excellent at design, observant on site and clear in your communication you cant eliminate all risk. Thats part and parcel of being a consulting engineer.

Some basic lessons they drum in every year

  1. Have a clear agreement as to what your scope of work is for the fee you are being paid.
  2. ‎Do the best job you can.
  3. ‎Dont be pressured into signing off or certifying work that is not correct.
  4. ‎If you are a small business or sole trader then protect your assets in a family trust.
  5. ‎Even the best laid plans can go wrong. If you remain in business long enough the law of averages says you are likely to have a claim brought against you at some stage regardless of whether you have been negligent. So have an appropriate level of insurance cover.

I think our best protection is to be actively engaged in solving the issue of poor construction. The seeds of poor construction are sown in the early design phases, if our designs are not clear or understandable then they don’t get translated to other consultants documents properly and there is no chance of building them correctly. If the documents that the building and services trades work from do not convey what is required in an understandable form then again the building will not get built properly. Lastly, if the construction team is not competant then the building will not get built properly. There are many steps in the chain that we need have an involvement in to deliver fire safe buildings.

If we want to be taken seriously as a profession we need to be involved at some level in the whole suppy chain that goes into building fire safe buildings, from design, documentation right through to final handover. I dont think it means we should be engaging in activities that we are not competant in carrying out, but we do need to be involved in the process so we can raise the red flag if incompetant people are involved in their part of the process of delivering fire safe buildings.

The current SFPE international byeline is “Engineering a fire safe world”. I believe it exhorts us to have involvement in anything neccesary to deliver that promise.

Putting on my presidents hat again, this is only my opinion and through these discussions we will see where the collective SFPE voice wants us to head to ensure we engineer a fire safe world.


Michael James

P.S. there is an executive committee meeting this week so if you have concerns raise it with your area rep to bring along to discuss.

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Good post Mike, and you hit it on the head…shoddy work should not be our responsibility, including poor design by the architect and construction by the builder…

We don’t “design” anything, we don’t build anything and we should not be taking liability for poor construction and providing a private certificate (PS4), covering 10 years of risk.

I know of some who have been nominated into legal cases only to be excluded on the basis of no PS4…if they had signed one then they would be well and truly in the mix for paying compensation.

Form the Quality 101 training manual_…“you can not inspect quality into a system, if it is not there to begin with it never will be”_

Go “fix” the architects and builders fist and then ask the question, after SFPE have collectively got sound legal advice. Remembering that Grimshaws are happy to defend or sue people in equal measure, depending on their fee, and the client.

I have expressed my views on the forum for all to see. I will be very disappointed if they are not taken seriously and the exec decide on their own volition to take the profession into a very very risky place with PS4s. My posts are quite clear. As I said before no post no voice. so by my reckoning from the forum the majority of the membership who can be bothered to provide comment are against the PS4 route and the exec should support that.

Has anyone had the thought to read the Determination on producer statements and what MBIE say?

Mike, I think there is some confusion between 2 issues. I don’t think that anyone is saying that you should not be involved in construction to resolve a specific issue. An example is that a wall or an area as opened and the assumptions on wall construction and its rating or detailing aren’t true and now the design team have to come up with a way to make it work as it was supposed to or come up with an alternative – for a suitably large fee of course.
Being on site in this example will incur some liability, if only for the area you were involved in and the solution you developed and that is acceptable. The litigation may try and pin you for the building defects 3 floors below, but that is much more defendable than writing a PS4 or similar statement that says you have looked everywhere and it is all wonderful.
Don’t believe the $200k limit written on the PS4, or any limitation in the fee proposal will help. The magic of the Law of Tort and “joint and several liability” makes that a nonsense, as is well proven in the leaky building cases. It is the reason why the Council ends up paying out $25m for Nautilus as the last man standing, and why they will drag in the fire engineer, if they are not already in the claim. It is also the reason why Councils, particular Auckland and Christchurch are making it a condition of consent for issue of a CCC - which the advice I have had is that it is probably illegal. If they can get a PS4, then that gives them an out when it springs a leak down the track.
BTW, if the requirement for construction observation and a PS4 becomes widespread, what happens for a project elsewhere in NZ? It will be practically limited to the larger companies that have nationwide coverage of local offices and companies without a nationwide presence won’t be able to compete due to travel costs. Similarly the fire designers doing acceptable solutions don’t have to do PS4s as they are not CPEng, so CPEng fire engineers lose out there as well.

with the exception of some of the larger councils (and I exclude Auckland from this) the majority of BCA understand that the PS4 is not a requirement and if an unfair requirement.

They simply don’t want to go there. Some are happy to go there because, as a building manager said to me last week - “we know we cant force them to issue a PS4 and why should they. If the fools want to take the liability I will happily accept it and then go after them when it goes wrong”

I excluded Auckland because the requirement does not appear in the Policy (I know I part wrote it). It was written as such because they are not an Act requirement, all of the issues the CPEng face above fire designers and also in the recognition that the fire engineer does not design anything, so should not take liability. MBIE and NZFS and representatives of the SFPE exec were at the meeting to discuss the policy when it was first released (at Westhaven) and all agreed that Auckland Council were correct. The original policy was and remains correct, nothing has changed since…

I know that my views may not be comfortable for some, but I am trying hard to make my fellow CPEng understand the need to exercise extreme caution.

Does the need for short term profit outweigh the 10 year personal risk as a CPEng?

If a BCA makes a PS4 a condition of consent are they acting ultra vires?

Ultra vires

Latin, meaning “beyond the powers.” Describes actions taken by government bodies or corporations that exceed the scope of power given to them by laws or corporate charters. When referring to the acts of government bodies (e.g., legislatures), a constitution is most often the measuring stick of the proper scope of power.

Refer to Section 18 of the Building Act:
18 Building work not required to achieve performance criteria additional to
or more restrictive than building code

The citation link is:

so if that is so we are being forced to break the Law then. As CPEng we cannot do that…

Funny (and very sad) that this thread has gone cold…

Now that the C/VM2 amendment has been released we should be turning our attention to the protection of the CPEng fire engineer. As uncomfortable that some will loose market (and profit)…that is a short term loss, but a long term protection.

doing PS4 (not required by the Act) - is short term profit and long term risk…

Where is the comment from the larger companies??.

Come on ladies and gents, put up or for ever hold your peace and follow the trend on this forum…this is the discussion forum and if there is no post then you must be happy with the comments provided.

Just saying!

No comments today from anyone…

Reading an old fire report from before 2004 and came over this passage (written by an Architect!!!

Coordination By: Responsibility for the integration of the fire safety features referred to in this report and their co ordination with other project documents and with the construction on site rests with the Architects.

Umm seems like they had a change of heart between then and now!!! The only change is the liability in the 04 Act…


Michael James’ post above reflects my thoughts as well. The PS4 system doesn’t fit out role in design particularly well. However, Construction and design are 2 sides to the same coin and we should be proactively trying to improve the quality of construction rather then trying to push the responsibility around.

Ultimately, we as fire engineers should be understanding why people want us to sign PS4’s (clients, BCA) and if PS4 isn’t the right mechanism, WE should be suggesting alternatives that suit our role.


agree with you Garth. The PS4 is not the right vehicle and the shouldering of liability to the fire engineer (who rarely designs anything) is also not right.

We are not a default resource fix for Councils who can not attract or retain staff. And yes WE should be suggesting alternatives, but to do that we need to have a very clear “stop” now from ENZ as the professional body and then work through all issues, legal and risk…