Government Response to the 2020 Fire Safety Consultation

Currently, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“FSO” for the purposes of this page) requires a responsible person (“RP”) to undertake, and review regularly, a fire risk assessment of the premises and to put in place and maintain fire precautions that are adequate and proportionate to manage the risk that lives could be lost in the event of a fire.  The FSO covered all non-domestic premises and, owing to an exemption for domestic premises except in limited circumstances, also applies to the common parts in residential buildings.

The Fire Safety Consultation, published on 20 July 2020, sought to further deliver the Government’s objective to improve building and fire safety in all regulated premises where people live, stay or work.  It outlined proposals designed to strengthen the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The FSO)2 and improve compliance in all regulated premises, amongst other things.

Following is a link to the Government response to the fire safety consultation (which closed in October, 2020), focusing on secondary legislation that will follow the Fire Safety Bill implementation.

Government Response to 2020 Fire Safety Consultation

It is 74 pages long, so we have summarised the main areas below which might be of interest, where either legislation change has been agreed or where further consultation is required.  Where relevant we have also included references to further useful information.

Government Response – Safety Assistance (Article 18)
We intend to amend the FSO to require that any person engaged by the RP to undertake all or any part of the fire risk assessment must be competent. For this purpose, we intend to align the definition of competence with that provided under Article 18 which states that a person is to be regarded as competent where they have sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures. Alignment with this definition of competence will encompass ongoing sector-led work relating to competence of risk assessors and other specialists.
Related Legislation
Article 18 Safety Assistance
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/article/18/made

 

Government Response – Co-operation and Co-ordination (Article 22)

We intend to amend the FSO to include a requirement for all RPs for all regulated premises to record their name, extent of their responsibility, and contact information (which must include a UK based contact address).

We also intend to amend Article 22 of the FSO to place a new requirement on all RPs for all regulated premises to take reasonable steps to identify themselves to all other RPs (and where applicable Accountable Persons under the BSB) where they share or have duties in respect of the same premises. It will be expected that the reasonable steps must be done in an auditable way to evidence compliance with the new requirement and should include the provisions of identifying information, to assist enforcing authorities to identify non-compliance of RPs with Article 22 of the FSO.

Related Legislation
Article 22 Co-operation and Co-ordination
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/article/22/made

 

Government Response – Risk Assessment (Article 9) and Fire Safety Arrangements (Article 11)

We also intend to amend the FSO to require all RPs to record their fire risk assessments and prescribed information as required under Article 9 of the FSO. We also intend to amend Article 11 of the FSO to require all RPs for all regulated premises to record their fire safety arrangements. This will work towards ensuring that a consistent approach is taken to fire safety across all premises regulated by the FSO, improve the quality of fire risk assessments and support enforcement action, enabling the sharing of fire risk assessments as well as provision of fire safety information to residents in regulated premises.

We intend to amend the FSO to place a requirement on all RPs to record the name and organisation of those they have engaged to undertake any or all of the fire risk assessment. This amendment seeks to facilitate the identification of those engaged by the RP to carry out their duties under Article 9 of the FSO, enhancing accountability and enforcement activity. It also seeks to assist enforcing authorities in ensuring that RPs engaging persons to assist with fire risk assessments are competent.

We intend to amend the FSO to require all departing RPs for all premises, or parts of premises, regulated by the FSO, to take reasonable steps to share all relevant fire safety information with incoming RPs. If the RP does not have this information, this amendment will impose a requirement that they obtain this information, unless it is not practicable for them to do so. This intends to ensure the preservation of fire safety information central to the safety of regulated premises over a building’s lifetime.

Related Legislation
Article 9 Risk Assessment and Article 11 Fire Safety Arrangements
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/article/9/made
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/article/11/made

 

Government Response – Floor Plans
The Government agrees that the floor plans are likely to be useful and relevant to the local FRS (Fire & Rescue Service) in assisting it to plan and deliver an effective operational response to a fire incident in a high-rise residential building. The plans should be simple to assist quick and critical decisions which may need to be taken by operational firefighters during an incident. Although RPs may already have plans for their buildings, the consultation proposed a new standardised approach to ensure consistency across the public and private housing sectors.

 

Government Response – Premises Information Box (buildings over 11m in height)
While further work is being undertaken to develop our policy approach to PIBs (premises information box) in existing buildings and to define the information that will be required to be stored in them, we will introduce a new requirement that they must be provided in all new buildings above 11 metres in height. Such requirement will be delivered through amendments to the building regulations fire safety guidance (Approved Document B).

 

Government Response – Routine Checks of Fire Lifts and Reporting Results to the Fire & Rescue Service
The Government agreed that it is important to ensure that FRSs can amend their operational response to consider any impairment to the lift capability of a building that they might otherwise rely on during an emergency response. The RP should already be undertaking routine checks and maintenance recommended by the lift manufacturer. While monthly tests of the lifts designed to be used by firefighters in an emergency and the mechanism through which firefighters can take control of the lifts can be done as part of this routine maintenance or alongside it, practical consideration has been given to reporting these results to FRSs

 

Government Response Comments Evacuation Plan and Communication to Various Parties
The Government agreed that it is critical for RPs to have in place an evacuation plan to ensure that building occupants can safely exit the building in case of an emergency, and that FRSs are aware of the evacuation plan and have an appropriate operational response prepared should this be required. It may also be beneficial to share the evacuation plan with both the local FRS and residents and a copy of the plan placed in a PIB, as recommended in the GTIP1 Report.

 

Government Response – National Guidelines for the Carrying Out of Full or Partial Evacuations of High-rise Residential Buildings
The Inquiry recommended that the Government develop national guidelines for carrying out partial or total evacuations of high-rise residential buildings. In December 2019, a joint Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government technical steering group was set up to support a research project to review means of escape provisions in blocks of flats including the use of a ‘stay put’ strategy and evacuation. The steering group identified four strands to this work: an evidence review to assess academic evidence on methods of evacuation; operational research to test evacuation strategies; building design research to evaluate fire safety provisions in buildings; and human behaviour and public confidence, to better understand public perception and understanding of evacuation strategies. This research will consider a range of issues including the risks associated with the evacuation of large numbers of people in order to produce national guidelines for the carrying out of full or partial evacuations of high-rise residential buildings.

 

Government Response – Provision of Details to the Local FRS of any Residents who Self-identify to them as Requiring Assistance to Evacuate the Premises
We proposed to require RPs to provide details of any residents who self-identify to them as requiring assistance to evacuate to their local FRS and to place this information in a PIB. Residents would need to be clearly told how they can declare their need for assistance. In buildings with a Waking Watch (with un-remediated cladding or under interim measures and in which ‘stay put’ is temporarily suspended due to heightened risk), the RPs will be required to prepare a personal emergency evacuation plan for each resident who self-identifies as requiring assistance with evacuation. They will also need to keep personal emergency evacuation plans up to date and, with the explicit consent of the relevant residents, share them with the local FRS to assist with their planning and response to any incident. Implementing personal emergency evacuation plans in general use blocks of flats is a complex issue. That is why we have decided to seek further views on this matter before committing to a legislative approach. We will include more information on this on GOV.UK as soon as possible.

 

Government Response Comments – Provision of Information for Multi-occupied Buildings
The Government is of the view that residents of any multi-occupied residential building should be provided with information and instructions, including those for evacuation, in a form that they can understand and that takes into account the nature of the building and the knowledge of their occupants. While some RPs make provision of fire safety information proactively, there is no explicit statutory requirement for information to be provided to residents. In line with the GTIP1 recommendations, the consultation included proposals to enhance the provision of information to residents of multi-occupied residential buildings for which the non-domestic parts are subject to the FSO.

 

Government Response – Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations Requires that: “The person carrying out work shall give fire safety information to the responsible person* not later than the date of completion of the work, or the date of occupation, whichever is earlier.”
There was strong support across all of the proposals for strengthening Regulation 38. Respondents were asked which types of work it should be extended to cover and used the free text answer to identify: where changes had been made to fire safety measures or the fire safety strategy were affected; or to cover all areas of works and refurbishment. While respondents overwhelmingly supported a reform in this area to improve the process and the robustness of information provided to the RP. Given the strength of support for making changes, we are taking forward work in this area. However, the mixed views presented when asked about the three options suggest further work is required with the sector to fully understand the pros and cons of each option before bringing forward changes to Regulation 38 in due course.

 

Government Response – Checks of Fire Doors
The owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings (whether or not they are high-rise buildings) be required by law to carry out checks at not less than three-monthly intervals to ensure that all fire doors are fitted with effective self-closing devices in working order. Many respondents used their free text answers to raise concerns that the proposals overcomplicated the recommendation made by the GTIP1 report. Many others had the view that these proposals were too frequent and therefore not practical to undertake. Furthermore, while proposal 27 sets out separate inspection frequencies for buildings 11-18m and 18m and above, some respondents highlighted in free text answers the benefit of inspecting both subsets in a unified manner to reduce any potential ambiguity over such duties.