New Fire Safety regulations - what you need to know
Are you an employer, a landlord or a letting agent with control over areas or systems of a building? If so, then you will need to know about new regulations that have recently come into force, and which could affect your job and the way you go about it.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 came into force on 23rd January 2023 and have been introduced in order to bring about changes to fire safety legislation as recommended in the Phase 1 Report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
The Regulations impose a range of new duties on responsible persons for all multi-occupied residential buildings in England. Given the context of their introduction, it is perhaps unsurprising that the extent of the duties will be determined by the height of the building, with more stringent measures around high-rise buildings which are defined as those being at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys.
Who is responsible?
Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a responsible person is defined as anyone who has any control over areas or systems of a building. The responsible person could be an employer, a landlord or a management agent. It is, therefore, critically important that you identify who will ensure that the new duties under the Regulations are complied with.
What are the new duties?
For all multi-occupied residential buildings (with two or more sets of domestic premises and common parts), residents must now be provided (annually) with key fire safety instructions informing them how to report a fire and what to do in the event of a fire, based on the building’s evacuation strategy. The responsible person must also provide information relating to the importance and operation of fire doors.
Residential buildings above 11 metres
For residential buildings above 11 metres, the responsible person must also undertake annual checks of entrance doors to flats and quarterly checks of fire doors in common parts.
High-rise residential buildings
As indicated above, the obligations in respect of high-rise buildings are more stringent and include:
Responsible persons must now install and maintain a secure information box in the building which includes the name and contact details of the responsible person and hard copies of the building floor plans.
The local Fire and Rescue Service must be provided with up-to-date building floor plans in electronic format. A hard copy of the plans along with a building plan which identifies the key firefighting equipment should also be contained within the secure information box on site.
Responsible persons are now also required to collate information in relation to the design and materials in the external wall systems which includes windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings. Such information must also include details of the level of risk presented by those designs and materials and the mitigating steps taken to address this. All of this information is to be provided to the local Fire and Rescue Service.
Monthly checks are to be undertaken on the operation of firefighting and evacuation lifts, as well as functionality checks on other key pieces of firefighting equipment. Any defects are to be reported to the Fire and Rescue Service as soon as possible after detection if they cannot be fixed within 24 hours. These checks should be recorded and made available to residents.
Signs must be installed which identify flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings; the signs must be visible in low light and/or smoky conditions.
It is obvious that the new Regulations give effect to significant changes when it comes to fire safety requirements and such changes may well come at a cost to those involved in the design, building and maintenance of relevant buildings, particularly high-rise residential buildings.
The fact is, however, that those who are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Regulations must act. The new regime may well see a related increase in enforcement action by the authorities if only to ensure that the Regulations are taken seriously, and those falling foul of the law can expect to face tougher sentences in the form of unlimited fines and for individuals, the prospect of up to two years’ imprisonment.
It is important, therefore, that you get full, up-to-date and accurate legal guidance from a solicitor on what the Regulations require you to do in order to ensure that you and your business remain compliant.