Why is there new fire legislation?
Posted on 2nd August 2022 at 12:49
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There have been some tragic events over recent years that have had a huge impact on fire safety legislation. Sometimes the changes can be confusing so we felt we would recap on the changes to the Fire Safety Act 2021 and Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.
If you work within the built environment or live in an apartment block, this will impact you.
Why is there new fire legislation?
For most of us, we all know what happened at Grenfell and, hopefully, the inquiries post this. If not, the critical thing to know is that significant reform is happening designed to protect the public from fire risk and support better compliance and enforcement in regulated premises. The Building Safety Act 2022 is now in place, which addresses some of this reform. But, there are also more changes when it comes specifically to fire law in England.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 Although passed in 2021, it came into effect on 16 May 2022. The Act clarifies that where a building contains two or more domestic premises (for example, a house split into two units), the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 now applies.
Not to confuse things too much, we’ve mentioned this applies to England, but this one also applies to Wales. The Regulations (below), however, do not!
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 are also new. It’s not law just yet, but we expect them to apply from 23 January 2023. These introduce new duties under article 24 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for ‘Responsible Persons’ (RPs).
The Fire Safety Act 2021 still applies and ups the ante on the requirements and premises it includes.
A Responsible Person under the new legislation?
A ‘Responsible Person’ means you are the employer of a workplace or essentially someone who has control of premises. You could be a building manager, landlord or owner.
The RP requirement has not changed in the new Act.
If you were an RP previously, you are likely still the designated person in the new regulations. What has changed, though, is your duties under the new Regulations.
As an RP, you still need to undertake a fire risk assessment, review this regularly, keep it up-to-date and have plans to deal with fire emergencies. The requirement for this hasn’t changed. But, there are a few additional modifications that you need to know about to comply. Remember that this officially comes into effect next year. So, there is plenty of time to implement a plan for your compliance.
The most significant change is that you must provide information to Fire and Rescue Services to assist them in planning and providing an operational response. The information you need to supply includes:
Building plans. Deliver up-to-date electronic building plans alongside a single page hard copy identifying firefighting equipment within the actual structure. Store the hardcopy information in a secure information box alongside the details of who the RP is.
External wall systems. Information on the design and materials used within the external walls and any changes to these. The new Act defines cladding, balconies, windows, insulations and fixings as external walls. You also need to provide information on the level of risk and detail on the completed mitigating steps to reduce significant fire risk at the design and build stages.
Lift Maintenance. The RP must take monthly checks on lifts and other essential pieces of firefighting equipment. The RP must report any defect that a maintenance team cannot fix within 24 hours to the local Fire and Rescue Service. Records are to be made available to residents.
Signage. You will need to install wayfinding signage visible in low level or smoky conditions that identify flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of buildings.
You may have additional requirements too. If you’re responsible for multi-occupied residential buildings (this is two or more sets of domestic premises as per the new Act). Or any residential building over 11 metres in height, you also need to:
Inspect fire doors. You must carry out an annual check of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts. You will need to provide residents with information on the importance of fire doors in fire safety.
Provide fire safety instructions. The RP must provide relevant guidance to residents on how to report a fire, what they should do in the event of a fire and the evacuation strategy for the building.
The Government will issue new guidance under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order. In the meantime, you are encouraged to work towards compliance. However, don’t submit electronic information to your local Fire and Rescue Service until closer to the date of commencement of the Regulations. This guidance has come directly from the UK Government.
The National Fire Chiefs Council has produced the infographic, which is also a great explanation of how the Regulations apply to different premises.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan
A PEEP is a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. PEEPs are a complex issue, and the Government hasn’t made recommendations for this under the new Regulations. They can’t be made proportionate, practical or safe at this stage. For more information on this, check out the PEEP consultation page.
What do I need to do right now?
Update your fire risk assessment (FRA) to ensure it includes an evaluation of the building’s external walls.
The government’s FRA Prioritisation Tool can help RPs prioritise updating their FRAs and assist with managing compliance. We recommend checking this out. It will ask you some questions and then pop out a priority rating for you which is beneficial in demonstrating your due diligence under the Fire Safety Order.
You can (and should) start complying with the new regulations, such as providing information to residents on fire doors and fire safety instructions.
Tagged as: Fire Safety
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