25 May 2022
We reported recently on Government proposals to shake up fire services in England (see White Paper sets out plans to reform England’s Fire and Rescue Service) and to take forward certain Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations (see Home Office invites comments on revised proposals for Emergency Evacuation Plans).
These proposed changes should however be seen in the context of other measures which have been taken to improve fire safety in residential settings since the fire at Grenfell Tower.
These include the full commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the laying of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (guidance on which is available at GOV.UK).
These measures seek to improve the overall fire safety of residents of multi-occupied residential buildings, including those whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.
The Act clarifies that the external walls and flat-entrance doors of a residential building are within the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the FSO) and should be included as part of the building’s fire risk assessment.
The Regulations will implement the majority of the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report which require a change in the law.
Meanwhile, the Fire Safety clause in the Building Safety Act 2022 will amend and strengthen the FSO to improve fire safety standards in all non-domestic premises. These amendments will increase the transparency of Responsible Persons’ activities to ensure compliance with the Order, supported by new statutory guidance, including the new duty to share relevant and comprehensible fire safety information with residents.
The Home Office said: “We expect that these new requirements will deliver improved fire safety outcomes for all residents in multi-occupied buildings, including those with compromised mobility. The Building Safety Act 2022 will also introduce a new, more stringent regime for high-rise residential buildings which will provide for a whole-building approach to ensuring the safety of residents against the risk of fire spread.”
Additionally, the new Building Safety Regulator will oversee compliance with the new regime and ensure residents’ voices are heard through committee representation (residents’ panel), including, specifically, disabled residents.