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12th December, 2022 by Robert Starr
On 23 January 2023 the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the Regulations) will come into force. The Regulations introduce new duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Fire Safety Order) for building owners and managers and have been introduced to implement the majority of the recommendations made within the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report. They apply in England only. In summary, the Regulations will help to ensure the provision of information to fire and rescue services to assist with the effective planning and response to a fire incident within multi-occupied residential buildings.
The Regulations only apply to multi-occupied residential buildings containing two or more domestic premises and with common parts through which individuals would evacuate in the event of fire. The domestic dwelling itself continues to fall outside the scope of the Fire Safety Order other than any equipment necessary to protect persons outside of that dwelling such as heat or smoke detectors.
The Regulations make it a legal requirement for Responsible Persons, which in the context of multi-occupied residential buildings will be the manager or owner, to introduce additional fire safety measures. These fall to be determined by the height of the building and are detailed below.
Provision of information – Responsible Persons must provide residents with fire safety instructions. The instructions should include information on: how to report a fire; the evacuation strategy for the building; and any other relevant instructions on what to do if a fire occurs. Instructions should be prominently displayed in the building, shared with residents and kept updated.
Fire doors – Information must be provided to residents in relation to fire doors to the effect that: fire doors must remain shut; self-closers must not be tampered with; and any faults or damage should be reported immediately to the Responsible Person.
In addition to the information provisions above, where the premises are over 11 metres in height (above ground), the Responsible Person will be required to undertake regular checks of all fire doors in the common parts of the building. This is an inspection of the doors to identify any obvious damage or issues such as whether: they can be closed properly; they have any gaps or damage; the self-closer is in working order; and any strips or seals are properly maintained. These checks must be done quarterly.
The Regulations also require annual checks of all flat entrance doors that lead onto a building’s common parts and, accordingly, have an integral role to play in the fire safety measures for the building. The Regulations recognise that it may not always be possible to gain access to resident’s private flats in order to conduct a full and effective check of entrance doors and therefore require these to be done on a ‘best endeavours’ basis. If access is not possible to enable a full inspection to take place, the Responsible Person will be required to evidence the steps they have taken to comply with this duty.
The Regulations introduce additional duties on Responsible Persons in relation to High Rise Residential Buildings (HRRBs). A HRRB is a building containing two or more sets of domestic premises that is at least 18m in height (above ground level) or at least seven storeys tall. Given the focus of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, it will come as no surprise that most of the recommendations arising from it related to HRRBs. The reason for the greater emphasis on HRRBs is due to the restrictive nature of building standards for this type of building and also the different firefighting strategies that such buildings demand.
In addition to the information requirements and fire door checks, Responsible Persons for HRRBs will be required to:
Secure information box - install and maintain a secure information box in their building. The box must contain the name and UK contact details of the Responsible Person; hard copies of the building’s floor plans, identifying key firefighting equipment; and a single page block plan. Access must be given to the fire and rescue service and the box should be kept up to date at all times;
External Wall Systems - provide to the local fire and rescue service (by electronic means) information about the design and materials of the building’s external walls and to inform the fire and rescue service of any changes to these walls. This should also include information on the level of risk posed by the external wall structure, particularly the risk of fire spread, and the steps taken by the Responsible Person to mitigate the risks. A standard template to be completed by Responsible Persons has been provided within supporting guidance published on 6 December 2022 and can be found by visiting this page here.
Floor and Building Plans – prepare up to date floor plans (for each floor unless they are identical) identifying the location of key firefighting equipment. A single page building plan must also be prepared to help firefighters take quick and critical decisions during an incident. Both sets of plans should be provided electronically to the local fire and rescue service with hard copies stored in the secure information box.
Lifts and other key firefighting equipment - undertake monthly checks on the operation of any lifts in the building that are designed to be used by firefighters for evacuation. Monthly checks should also be made of key firefighting equipment (such as dry rising mains, smoke control and suppression equipment) within the building. Any faults should be rectified as soon as possible. Anything that cannot be rectified within 24 hours must be reported to the local fire and rescue service electronically. The monthly checks should be recorded and available to residents of the building; and
Wayfinding signage - install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions which identifies both flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of the building.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report made two specific recommendations on Responsible Persons preparing PEEPs for residents in their buildings who are unable to self-evacuate. The PEEPs recommendations have not been implemented by the Regulations and, due to continuing practical difficulties as to how this issue should be best addressed, has been subject to a number of government consultations. In addition, legal proceedings were launched last week by disability rights campaigners to seek to force the Inquiry recommendations on PEEPs to be implemented. Building owners and managers will be awaiting the outcome of those proceedings with interest and, no doubt, some trepidation.
The Regulations have been introduced under Article 24 of the Fire Safety Order and do not make any change to the existing duties owed by the Responsible Person under Articles 8 to 22. The Regulations can be enforced by fire and rescue services in the same way as any breach under the Fire Safety Order. In particular, failure to comply with the Regulations is an offence (under Article 32.1(b)) where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire.
Owners and managers of any multiple occupancy residential buildings will, if they have not already done so, need to take swift action to ensure that they are prepared and have all necessary measures in place prior to 23 January 2023.
Robert Starr is a member of the Regulatory Team at Howes Percival LLP with extensive experience in fire safety and enforcement matters. If you need help or guidance with anything in this article or you are facing enforcement action from the Fire and Rescue Authorities, please contact Rob via email at email@example.com.
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