Fire Technology

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 1011–1037 | Cite as

A Review of Sociological Issues in Fire Safety Regulation



This paper presents an overview of contemporary sociological issues in fire safety. The most obviously social aspects of fire safety—those that relate to the socioeconomic distribution of fire casualties and damage—are discussed first. The means that society uses to mitigate fire risks through regulation are treated next; focusing on the shift towards fire engineered solutions and the particular challenges this poses for the social distribution and communication of fire safety knowledge and expertise. Finally, the social construction of fire safety knowledge is discussed, raising questions about whether the confidence in the application of this knowledge by the full range of participants in the fire safety design and approvals process is always justified, given the specific assumptions involved in both the production of the knowledge and its extension to applications significantly removed from the original knowledge production; and the requisite competence that is therefore needed to apply this knowledge. The overarching objective is to argue that the fire safety professions ought to be more reflexive and informed about the nature of the knowledge and expertise that they develop and apply, and to suggest that fire safety scientists and engineers ought to actively collaborate with social scientists in research designed to study the way people interact with fire safety technology.


Sociology Fire safety Knowledge Expertise Regulation 



Many of the ideas leading to this paper originated from The 2013 Lloyd’s Register Foundation Global Technical Leadership Seminar in Fire Safety Engineering, held in Gullane, Scotland. The Seminar was majority funded by The Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF). The authors would like to acknowledge the intellectual contributions the Seminar participants, as well as the in-kind support provided by their respective organizations in allowing them to attend. We are grateful for the support of The Royal Academy of Engineering.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ove Arup Foundation/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Innovation StudiesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Chair of Fire and Structures, School of EngineeringUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of QueenslandSt Lucia, BrisbaneAustralia

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