In response to the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, the proposed Fire Safety Bill is anticipated to come into effect in England and Wales soon. This is set to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and represents the biggest change in building safety for a generation.
Currently awaiting House of Commons consideration of House of Lords amendments, the purpose of the Fire Safety Bill (2019-2020) is to minimise fire safety risk to tenants of domestic residential properties with multiple occupants, such as apartment blocks and student accommodation.
If, as expected, the Fire Safety Bill goes through parliamentary process successfully, the new legislations is expected to be named the ‘Fire Safety Act of 2020’ – which will effectively be an amendment to the The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
NB: The bill applies to England and Wales – separate fire safety legislation is in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Fire Safety is devolved in Wales but the Bill amends the shared legislation, with the same delegated powers applying to English and Welsh Ministers.
What are the key elements of the Fire Safety Bill?
The emphasis in the new bill is on placing accountability on the Responsible Person for managing and reducing the risk of fire, with the onus on them to focus on the below areas in particular:
- Structure and external walls (such as balconies and windows) throughout the building
- Entrance doors that open into communal areas – compulsory regular fire door inspections will be mandatory (there is currently no specific legislation on this)
The bill’s focus on these areas will provide clarification on critical responsibilities which have until now been a grey area. For example, until the proposals now in place, it has been unclear whether fire safety legislation applied to the actual structure of a building and its external walls.
With the above amendments in place, building owners will soon be formally held to account on all of these areas by Fire and Rescue Authorities if they do not comply with updated fire safety legislation once passed. Enforcement action is expected to rise as a result of the bill, and duty-holders can expect to face severe penalties if prosecuted.
How can you prepare for the changes?
With the passing of the Fire Safety Bill now imminent, it is important to ensure that the review and upkeep of your premises’ fire safety solutions is put firmly back on the priority list, despite (and because of) the recent disruption caused by COVID-19. Four key measures that you should take include:
Making sure evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated – and personal evacuation plans are in place for residents whose ability to evacuate may be compromised
Considering whether your building is likely to fall short of the new legislation, particularly when thinking about fire doors and external walls and engage with a fire safety partner to discuss how to address any changes you may need to make.
Checking the annual servicing of your fire safety equipment hasn’t expired and if so, book it in now. Fire safety engineers and categorised as key workers and are able to visit your premises during lockdown periods.
Ensuring your Fire Risk Assessment is up to date and reflects any adaptations you have made as a result of Covid-19
If you need support in any aspect of fire safety planning, contact our experts today. From fire risk assessments and one-off safety audits to installation and breakdown cover, we can help with all your safety and compliance obligations.