Last reviewed 5 July 2022

During the first half of 2022, the UK fire safety regime has seen considerable activity in terms of legislative change, consultations and revised guidance. Mike Sopp provides a summary of the main changes.

Building Safety Act 2022

General requirements

The Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) received Royal Assent in April 2022. The Act is a significant piece of legislation which will bring into law the regulatory changes to building regulation and control for higher-risk buildings in England based on the proposals of Dame Judith Hackitt (Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety) and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry (Phase One).

The Act also introduces changes to building control that will affect all buildings, strengthens the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (see below), provides new accountability and duties and introduces competency standards and provisions to strengthen the construction products regulations.

A copy of the Building Safety Act 2022 can be found here.

Amendments to RR(FS)O 2005

Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 will amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The FSO amendments will deliver fire safety improvements for all FSO regulated premises and ensure residents in a building containing two or more sets of domestic premises receive relevant fire safety information. In summary, the amendments will require the “responsible person” (RP) to:

  • record their fire risk assessment in full

  • ensure that they do not appoint a person to assist them in making or reviewing a fire risk assessment unless the person is competent

  • record the identity of any person appointed by the RP to assist them

  • record their fire safety arrangements

  • take reasonable steps to ascertain whether there are any other RPs that share or have duties in respect of the premises

  • inform the other RPs concerned of their name; an address in the United Kingdom at which they, or someone acting on their behalf, will accept notices and other documents; and the part of the premises for which they consider themselves to be an RP and keep a record of that information.

RPs for buildings containing two or more sets of domestic premises must also provide relevant and comprehensible information in relation to relevant fire safety matters to residents and must keep records of relevant fire safety matters in order to do so. This provision contains a regulation making power enabling the Secretary of State to extend the list of relevant fire information that must be provided and to include details of the times when, and the form in which, all of the information must be provided.

For residential premises in a higher-risk building (defined as a building in England that is at least 18m in height or has at least seven storeys and contains at least two residential units), RPs must take reasonable steps to ascertain if there is an accountable person in relation to the premises and co-operate with them to enable them to carry out their duties under the Building Safety Act 2022.

Further amendments will support effective enforcement action by amending Article 50 of the FSO to state that in proceedings where it is alleged an RP has contravened Articles 8-22B of the FSO or any regulations made under Article 24, proof that they failed to follow relevant Article 50 guidance may be used as evidence for such a breach or conversely proof that it was followed may be used to establish compliance.

Further details of the amendments can be found here and a factsheet here.

Consultations on statutory instruments

Implementation of requirements contained in the BSA will be through statutory instruments, following consultation. The UK Government recently published a document on the proposed Consultation on the Higher Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations which completes the definition of higher-risk buildings for the new building safety regime.

Further information on this consultation can be found here.

Implementation and further information

Although the BSA was granted Royal Assent at the end of April 2022, the vast majority of its provisions will not come into force for 12–18 months, as the secondary legislation is developed. The transition plan for this can be found here.

The Health and Safety Executive is preparing for the implementation of the Act through the establishment of the Building Safety Regulator. Further information on this can be found here.

A number of Factsheets in relation to the BSA can be found here.

Fire Safety Act 2021

Requirements of the Fire Safety Act 2021 came into force in May 2022.

Amendment to RR(FS)O 2005

Section 1 amends Article 6 (Application to premises) of the RRFSO by inserting the following paragraph.

Where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises, the items to which this order applies include:

  • the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts

  • all doors between the domestic premises and common parts (so far as not falling within sub-paragraph (a)).

A new paragraph 1B then states that the reference to external walls include:

  • doors or windows in those walls

  • anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).

In the case of multi-occupied residential buildings, this will put beyond doubt “that structure, external walls and flat entrance doors fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order”.

Section 2 of the FSA enables the Secretary of State/Welsh Minister to change or clarify the premises to which this requirement applies. In effect this may mean they can extend the scope of buildings to which this requirement applies.

Section 3 of the FSA amends Article 50 (Guidance) of the RRFSO by inserting the following paragraph.

Where in any proceedings it is alleged that a person has contravened a provision of articles 8–22 or of regulations made under article 24 in relation to a relevant building (or part of the building):

  • proof of a failure to comply with any applicable risk-based guidance may be relied on as tending to establish that there was such a contravention

  • proof of compliance with any applicable risk-based guidance may be relied on as tending to establish that there was no such contravention.

Guidance

In support of the amendments, the Government has published guidance. This can be found here.

Priority Toolkit

In support of the amendments, the Government has also produced a Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool; which can be accessed here.

PAS 9880

To support the assessment of external walls, PAS 9880: 2022- Assessing the External Wall Fire Risk in Multi-occupied Residential Buildings has been published. It provides a methodology for the fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing multi-storey and multi-occupied residential buildings.

The publication can be downloaded from here.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

General requirements

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 are being laid under article 24 of the Fire Safety Order 2005. The regulations apply to existing buildings and requirements for new buildings may be different. They will come into force in January 2023. In high-rise residential buildings, responsible persons will be required to:

  • provide their local Fire and Rescue Service with up-to-date electronic building floor plans and to place a hard copy of these plans, alongside a single page building plan which identifies key firefighting equipment in a secure information box on site

  • provide to their local fire and rescue service information about the design and materials of a high-rise building’s external wall system and to inform the fire and rescue service of any material changes to these walls. Also, they will be required to provide information in relation to the level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure gives rise to and any mitigating steps taken

  • undertake monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters and the evacuation lifts in their building. They will also be responsible for checking the functionality of other key pieces of firefighting equipment as well as be required to report any defective lifts or equipment to their local fire and rescue service as soon as possible after detection if the fault cannot be fixed within 24 hours. They will then need to record the outcome of checks and make them available to residents

  • install and maintain a secure information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans

  • install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identifies flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.

In residential buildings with storeys over 11m in height, the responsible persons will be required to undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts:

  • undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts.

In all multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises Responsible Persons will be required to:

  • provide relevant fire safety instructions to their residents, which will include instructions on how to report a fire and any other instruction which sets out what a resident must do once a fire has occurred, based on the evacuation strategy for the building

  • provide residents with information relating to the importance of fire doors in fire safety.

Further information on Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 can be found here.

Consultation on guidance

Draft guidance has been published for consultation. This can be found here.

Building Regulations 2010 amendments/approved Document B: fire safety

Building etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022

Following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, the Government introduced a ban on the use of combustible materials in and on external walls of high-rise buildings over 18m.

The Building etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 amend the Building Regulations 2010 in that it further bans the use of combustible materials on the external walls of hotels, hostels and boarding houses over 18m.

A copy of the Regulations can be found here.

Amendment to Approved Document B

The Government has also published an update to Approved Document B to introduce new rules for external walls and balconies for new blocks of flats between 11m and 18m in height.

This new statutory guidance sets clearer, stronger standards which will set limits on the combustibility of materials used in the external walls of buildings. They also introduced recommendations as follows.

  • Secure information boxes: A new recommendation for secure information boxes in blocks of flats with storeys over 11m.

  • Evacuation alert systems: A new recommendation for evacuation alert systems in blocks of flats with storeys over 18m.

  • Clarifications and corrections: Clarification of further diagrams, further text clarifications and corrections.

Further information can be found here and a copy of the amendments can be found here.

Consultations and Surveys

Emergency Evacuation Information System/PEEP (FSF PEEP Guide)

In May 2022, the Government published a consultation seeking views on new proposals to support the fire safety of residents in multi-occupancy buildings who would need support to evacuate in an emergency situation.

This follows on from the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) consultation, which raised significant issues covering three broad areas — practicality, proportionality and safety.

The EEIS+ consultation therefore seeks views on the alternative proposals to support the fire safety of residents who would need support to evacuate in an emergency.

Further information on the EEIS+ consultation can be found here and more information on the PEEPs consultation can be found here.

Note: The Fire Sector Federation has also published Personal Emergency Evacuation-General Residential Premises. This can be found here.

Home Office Fire Risk Assessor Survey

March 2022 saw the Home Office begin a Fire Risk Assessor Survey. The aim is to better understand the impact the forthcoming changes (as noted above) may have on the sector.

The Home Office is asking members of the professional bodies working in the Fire Risk Assessor sector and/or those who are involved with fire risk external wall assessments (EWA) to complete the survey.

Further information can be found here.

Official Guidance Reviews

As part of the reform of the fire safety regime, official fire safety guidance is subject to review. In addition, new guidance may appear for the following:

  • a brief explainer on fire doors that captures any regulatory changes

  • a summary of the sanctions available for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order

  • an implementation guide for the primary fire safety changes planned through the Building Safety Bill

  • a comprehensive overarching fire risk assessment guide

  • an overlap guide explaining the difference between a “Responsible Person” and an “Accountable Person” under the Building Safety Bill.

This work is being undertaken by C.S.Todd & Associates Ltd.

British Standards

BS EN 12845-1: Fixed firefighting systems — Automatic sprinkler systems. — Part 1: Design, installation and maintenance

This publication has recently been out for public consultation. The final version is expected to be published in 2023.

Further information can be found here.

BS EN ISO 7010: Graphical symbols. Safety colours and safety signs. Registered safety signs

This publication was updated in 2022. It adds new symbols, including:

  • evacuation route, location of safety equipment or safety facility, safety action (safe condition signs): First aid responder, evacuation mattress, lifebuoy with light and smoke, person overboard call point

  • fire equipment signs: Firefighters’ lift, unconnected fire hose

  • mandatory action signs: Keep out of reach of children

  • warning signs: Substance or mixture presenting a health hazard; warning, substance or mixture that can cause an environmental hazard; warning

Further information can be found here.

BS 8644-1: Digital management of fire safety information. Part 1: Design, construction, handover, asset management and emergency response — Code of practice

This British Standard will give recommendations for the management, presentation and exchange of fire safety information using digital information management processes.

Further information can be found here.

London Plan Policy D5(B5)

Policy D5 of the London Plan requires the highest standards of accessible and inclusive design to be met.

It requires development proposals to be designed to incorporate safe and dignified emergency evacuation for all building users. In all developments where lifts are installed, there is a minimum requirement for at least one lift per core (or more subject to capacity assessments) should be a suitably sized fire evacuation lift which is appropriate to be used to evacuate people who require level access from the building.

Further information can be found here.

Fire Reform White Paper

In May 2022, the Government published a White Paper seeking views on proposals to introduce system-wide reform that will strengthen fire and rescue services in England.

A copy of the White Paper can be found here.