Last reviewed 26 May 2022

As we have reported already this month, the Government continues to push ahead with its responses to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations and to spell out the implications of the coming into force of the Fire Safety Act 2021 (see Government makes progress with its plans to improve fire safety).

As part of this package of measures, the Home Office has now published (with all titles available at GOV.UK):

  • Fire Safety Act Commencement: Prioritisation guidance

  • Fire Safety Act 2021 factsheet: Information on commencement of ss.1 and 3 of the Fire Safety Act

  • Fire Safety Act 2021 factsheet: Information for lenders

  • Fire Safety Act 2021 factsheet: The Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool.

The Prioritisation Guidance is intended to be used by Responsible Persons (or anyone who has, to any extent, control of those buildings) for the purpose of complying with their duties in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), further to the amendments made by the Fire Safety Act 2021.

It applies to premises in England only.

While there is no legal requirement to follow this guidance, it is intended to support Responsible Persons to develop a strategy to prioritise their buildings to update their fire risk assessments to include external walls.

The first factsheet explains the legal requirements of the Fire Safety Act, defines residential buildings in scope of the FSO (with reference to maisonettes) and notes that “intrusive inspections are only required if the fire risk assessor has serious concerns about the structural fire protection of the building”.

Information for lenders, which again relates only to England, highlights that fire risk assessments are designed to assess the fire risk in buildings in scope of the FSO and take into consideration more factors than a building’s external walls.

They cannot provide a binary output to inform lending decisions, the factsheet makes clear, and therefore it would not normally be appropriate to use these as an indication of the level of risk from fire faced by a building to inform lending decisions.

The third and final factsheet describes an online tool developed by the Government, with input from the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) and several housing organisations and local authorities.

Its purpose is to support Responsible Persons to develop a prioritisation strategy for updating their fire risk assessments following commencement of s.1 of the Fire Safety Act 2021.

“The prioritisation tool should only be used by Responsible Persons,” it emphasises. “This is very important as only Responsible Persons have the legal obligation under the Fire Safety Order to carry out the fire risk assessment.