Fire safety bill: What to expect for high-rise owners and operators

29 Mar 2021

Anticipated to bring major change for high-rise housing developments, the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Bill are currently being considered in Parliament. Seeking to prevent a repeat of the Grenfell tragedy, the Bills incorporate findings from the Hackett report and introduce new fire safety standards for developments across England and Wales. 

The Building Safety Bill marks a new era of accountability, bringing clarity to where the responsibility for managing safety lies - right from the design and construction of a building through to occupation. It will bring tougher sanctions for those that fail to meet their obligations and establish a new Building Safety Regulator. The bill specifically relates to apartment blocks that are over 18 metres in height however there are many aspects that can be applied as best practice more widely.

The Fire Safety Bill outlines the responsibility for managing and reducing fire risk and calls for developers and building managers to pay for safety improvements. If passed, the bill will amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 and clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings will need to manage and reduce the fire risk for:

  • The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies, and windows.
  • Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.

Under the new law, fire and rescue services will be empowered to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.

In conjunction with the new bills there are other obligations affecting apartment developments that place obligations upon management companies and freeholders dependent upon the setup of the development.  

 

What does this mean for owners and operators of high-rise multi-occupancy buildings?

The increased obligations for owners and managers will include:

  • Regular lift inspections and checks of all fire doors
  • Clear fire safety instructions for residents
  • Regularly reviewed evacuation plans shared with residents and fire rescue services
  • Reporting to local fire and rescue services

Under the Fire Safety Bill building owners will be held to account for any failings in compliance. With financial and criminal liability at stake, now is the time for a ‘fire safety health check’ to make sure your residential portfolio is complaint.

 

To give peace of mind and prepare for the transition, we recommend:  

  • A review of existing fire strategies to ensure they are fit for purpose and a review of O&M manuals to confirm the robustness of fire safety systems and building construction.
  • Fire risk assessments tailored for compliance with the new legislation. This includes fire signage and emergency arrangements.
  • Fire door surveys – a must as the Fire Safety Bill will require an initial inspection by a ‘competent’ person.
  • Training for Building Managers.
  • Production of Emergency Evacuation Plans.

RPS can provide all of the above and more to help you prepare for the change in legislation. We’re here to make complex easy and help you ensure a fire compliant residential portfolio.  

Learn more about our health, safety, risk assessment and management services.

Contact

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Andy James

Senior Technical Director - Health & Safety +44 (0) 20 7280 3240 EMAIL

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