Compliance expert Bureau Veritas is encouraging landlords and duty holders to prepare for the Fire Safety Act 2021, and describes the legislation as a new era for building safety.
The Act, given Royal assent on April 29 this year, will amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and aims to make it clearer where responsibility for fire safety lies.
The new laws apply to buildings containing more than one home that are more than 18 metres or six/seven stories in height and seeks to respond to the outcomes of the Hackitt Review.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 clarifies that the responsible person or duty holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must “manage and reduce the risk of fire” posed by the building’s structure, and most notably external wall systems, including windows and balconies, and individual occupants’ entrance doors. Under the clarification, fire and rescue services will be authorised to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.
This latest law follows various action already taken designed towards strengthening the whole regulatory system for building safety, including new sprinkler requirements and the forthcoming Building Safety Bill which was presented to Parliament on July 5 2021.
John O’Sullivan MBE, technical director – fire consultancy at Bureau Veritas, states: “The approval of the Fire Safety Act marks a significant step in the right direction to mitigate the fire risk in relation to life safety and building safety and is one of the biggest outcomes of the Grenfell Inquiry to date.”
“The government is expected to release further guidance on the Act later this year, as there is further consultation currently taking place in relation to the stay put policy and evacuation procedures for high rise residential properties.”
“Therefore, we would encourage any landlord or duty holder to take stock of the new changes already in place and review its current fire risk assessments policies. The Fire Safety Act potentially poses new challenges for duty holders, with the inclusion of the building structure, external walls, balconies and windows now forming part of a fire risk assessment process, and with the onus now firmly placed on duty holders to get it right, its essential these are done properly.”
The Fire Safety Act also provides a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report, including lift inspections, reviewing evacuation plans and fire safety instruction for residents.
The upcoming Building Safety Bill, which was placed before parliament on July 5, and is expected to be passed into law by 2022, is likely to include parts of phase two recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry that will enact a change in Building Regulations.
O’Sullivan continues: “With these new changes enforced by the Fire Safety Act, and more updates to come in the near future, it may seem a daunting task for landlords or a residential buildings duty holders to keep on top of the regulations to ensure risk assessments are accurate.”
“However, third party health and safety firms, like Bureau Veritas, are able to conduct compliant fire risk assessments and make recommendations for necessary changes to mitigate the risk to ensure homes remain safe.”