The NEW Fire Safety guidelines, which come into force on October 1, 2023, will have an impact on Local Governments and Housing Providers.
The one constant thing in the fire safety community since the Grenfell Tower disaster, the subsequent inquiry, and reports into it, is change. The introduction of the Building Safety Act 2022, and specifically Section 156, has brought in phase three of the home Office plan for improving fire safety in higher-risk buildings.
The Act will further amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which was revised recently in phase two of the Home Office plan by the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022. the aim is to deliver fire safety improvements for all premises that fall under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and ensure that residents in a building which contains two or more sets of domestic premises, receive relevant fire safety information for their building.
While section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 does highlight residential buildings containing two or more sets of domestic premises, the changes affect all buildings and premises that are in the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
In brief, the changes are:
- Record their Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) in full.
- Record the identity of any person appointed by the Responsible Person to assist them.
- Record your fire safety arrangements.
- Take reasonable steps to ascertain whether there are any other RPs that share or have duties in respect to the premises and
- Inform the other Responsible Persons concerned of their name, an address in the United Kingdom at which they, or someone acting on their behalf, will accept notices and other documents, and the part of the premises for which they consider themselves to be an RP and keep a record of that information.
The amendment of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 will place new legal duties on responsible persons (RPs) to record their fire risk assessments in full. The amendment changes the previous requirement of having a written fire risk assessment only where there are five or more employees to include all premises, regardless of number of employees.
This means no matter what size organisation you are; you will have to record the findings of your fire risk assessment.
The amendment has also changed what must be recorded within the Fire Risk Assessment, as the word “significant” has been removed from article 9 (7)(a) of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Consequently, it is no longer just the significant findings of the risk assessment but all findings of the risk assessment, including the measures which have been, or will be taken by the responsible person, as required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Furthermore, the amendment will require the responsible person to give residents of a building which contains two or more sets of domestic premises comprehensible and relevant information about the relevant fire safety matters of the building. These fire safety matters include:
- The risks to residents of the domestic premises are identified by the risk assessment.
- The preventive and protective measures.
- The name of the responsible person and an address in the United Kingdom at which the responsible person, or someone acting on their behalf, will accept notices and other documents.
- The identity of any person appointed by the responsible person to assist them with making or reviewing an assessment.
- The identity of any persons nominated by the responsible person to assist with non-automatic fire-fighting equipment.
- Any risks where two or more responsible persons share, or have duties in respect of, premises which the responsible person has been informed of.
- Any other matters specified in regulations made by the relevant authority.
While simply providing the residents with the risks identified within the Fire Risk Assessment, residents may not fully understand the implication and magnitude of any risks that are identified. This might require further information to be provided to residents in order to provide reassurance to the residents on what the level of risk actually is and what the consequences might be. Along with this, and this might be considered most important, is the supply of information on the mitigation factors to be implemented and a time scale for completion of any remedial works/actions that the risk assessment has identified requiring attention.
The changes brought in by Section 156 will mean that there is also a requirement for responsible persons to identify and share information with other responsible persons on the premises to help facilitate a cohesive approach to fire safety throughout the entire building. If the building changes hands or a new organisation becomes the responsible person, the outgoing, responsible person must share fire safety information with incoming responsible persons when control of the building passes between them, thus enabling a continual record of fire safety information throughout a building’s lifetime (the Golden Thread).
Such fire safety information includes:
- Records of risk assessments carried out.
- The identity of the risk assessor who made or reviewed the risk assessment.
- The name of any other person who is a responsible person in relation to the premises and an address in the United Kingdom.
- Where the premises consist of or include a higher-risk building, the identity of any other person who is an accountable person in relation to the premises (where known); and
- Any fire safety information given under Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations 2010
With regard to higher-risk buildings which are at least 18 metres in height or have at least 7 storeys and contain at least 2 residential units, the Responsible Person must take steps that are reasonably practical to identify any other Responsible Persons, and also coordinate and cooperate with each Accountable Person (as defined in Section 72 of the Building Safety Act 2022).
Once section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 comes into effect on the 1st of October 2023, a greater amount of information will need to be recorded and shared with others, including residents. With no word of when the competency requirements will come into effect, the advice to Responsible Persons is to start making plans to check the competency of anyone carrying out or reviewing a fire risk assessment for a building before the legislation requires it.