Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the management of fire and structural safety risks in high-rise multi-occupied residential buildings was highly scrutinised, resulting in an umbrella of fire safety regulations being introduced, driving cultural change and behaviours to significantly improve safety in the UK.
- Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 (the BSA) intends to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Order) to increase the obligations on responsible persons, including additional requirements relating to record-keeping, handovers, as well as keeping and providing residents with specified fire safety information. The provisions of the BSA are expected to come into force over a period of 18 months from when it received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.
- The Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA) clarified the Order and introduced the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the Regulations), which the Government intend to bring into force in England on 23 January 2023. The FSA confirmed that the Order applies to the building structure, external walls (including cladding) and flat entrance doors; all of which need to be included as part of the mandatory risk assessment. Responsible persons have therefore acquired additional duties in respect of these areas, in addition to internal common parts.
The Regulations implement most of the recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in their Phase 1 report and largely pertain to high-rise residential buildings; defined as a building containing two or more sets of domestic premises, that is at least 18 metres tall or has at least seven storeys. Certain provisions of the Regulations will however apply regardless of a building’s height, such as the requirements that fire safety instructions and fire door information be given to all residents.
Article 3 of the Order defines a responsible person (outside of a workplace environment) as anyone who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by them a trade, business or other undertaking; or, the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.
Once the Regulations are in force, responsible persons for high-rise residential buildings will therefore be required to:
- share electronically with their local fire and rescue services information about the building’s external wall system and provide electronic copies of floor and building plans for the building;
- keep hard copies of the building’s floor plans, in addition to a single page orientation plan of the building, and the name and UK contact details of the responsible person in a secure information box which is accessible by firefighters;
- install wayfinding signage visible in low light conditions and undertake a minimum of monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters in their building and check the functionality of other firefighting equipment;
- inform the fire and rescue service if a lift used by firefighters or one of the pieces of firefighting equipment is out of order for longer than 24 hours; and
- deliver current information to local fire services in relation to the design and materials of the external wall system, and an assessment of the level of risk that the design and materials of the wall system pose in relation to fire.
Consequently, responsible persons need to review the status of their current fire safety protocols to ensure compliance and prepare for the implementation of the new Regulations, which apply in England, by 23 January 2023.
Many main contractors have been looking to improve the quality and depth of information they provide to owners for some time. But the new regulations will require an even greater level of transparency and information sharing. These changes will help contractors to build right first time – ultimately reducing delays, costly rework and waste, as well as improving on-site safety.