A Review of Sociological Issues in Fire Safety Regulation

Graham Spinardi, Luke Bisby, Jose L. Torero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This communication 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalFire Technology
Early online date26 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • sociology
  • fire safety
  • knowledge
  • expertise
  • regulation


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