What Does The New Fire Safety Bill Mean For Responsible Persons?

Note: We issued an updated blog in July 2020 covering the latest in the Draft Fire & Building Safety Bill, Managing Agents and Responsible Persons and what we can do to help.

Fire safety is one of the few areas that has accelerated at pace during the lockdown period.  The Government continues its post-Grenfell pledge to effect change and introduce new legislation for building owners and responsible persons to comply.

Here, we look at the new Fire Safety Bill, which seeks to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 and clarify obligations for reducing fire risk in multi-occupancy residential buildings.

The details of the Fire Safety Bill, which has now had its second reading in the House of Commons, includes:

  • Recommendations of regular inspections of lifts and sprinkler systems for buildings over 11m tall.
  • Ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed, regularly updated and communicated to residents in a “form that they can be reasonably expected to understand.”
  • Compulsory quarterly fire door inspections (hugely significant development in its own right, to influence an industry where this is no specific legislation that requires fire doors to be checked.)

This will all play a key part in increasing residents’ fire safety, whereby building owners will now face ‘enforcement action’ from emergency services if they do not manage fire risk.

The Government is also consulting with the National Fire Chiefs Council to begin testing evacuation alert systems for high-rise blocks of flats, which could support fire and rescue services’ operational response by alerting residents if they need to escape.

The Building Safety Regulator
The new programme will be governed by a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) that will initially be led by Dame Judith Hackitt during the set up phase, who will be tasked with improving the fire safety of buildings.

The BSR will be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of buildings. And such decisions and obligations must be upheld and maintained throughout a development’s life.

It is hoped by Government, that the BSR to be set up in shadow form before the Building Safety Bill becomes law. The plan is to put the bill before Parliament by the autumn, despite the challenges thrown by the Pandemic.

Next Steps
The new legislation proposed by Government will ensure that buildings and those that live and work in them are maintained to be fire safe.

This means for those who own or manage residential buildings, will soon be ‘held into account’ with significant penalties, if they do not ensure fire safety in their buildings, and the requirements will impact further on costs and resource allocation, for investigating buildings and ensuring compliance.

There is a definite sense to be proactive in acceptance of the new impending legislation.

Amthal understands the concern cited amongst building owners is the industry’s ability to undertake the volume of assessments required, given the lack of current lack of specific legislation on specific elements such as fire doors and risk assessments, together with the steep expectations for fire strategy and evacuation plans.

We are working closely with building owners and managers across the UK to deliver the benefits of safer environment within a holistic fire safety approach. Working in partnership, means taking the time to understand the implications of the Government’s Fire Safety Bill, alongside the implications of the Building Safety Bill and BSR programme. This way, we can ensure responsible persons confidently achieve all operational requirements for the ultimate benefit of residents’ peace of mind

Note: We issued an updated blog in July 2020 covering the latest in the Draft Fire & Building Safety Bill, Managing Agents and Responsible Persons and what we can do to help.