Fire Safety Act 2021
As the threat of fire is a constant worry for any business owner, all designated Responsible Persons must ensure that the premises are compliant with the recent Fire Safety Act 2021.
What is the Fire Safety Act 2021?
The Fire Safety Act 2021 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and commenced on 16 May 2022. The Act amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Fire Safety Order).
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.
The new Act is an effort on behalf of the Government to improve fire safety in multi-occupancy domestic premises following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017.
What amendments does the Fire Safety Act 2021 make to the Fire Safety Order?
The Act amends the current Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), clarifying its ambit to include the risks posed by the external façade of buildings and individual entrance doors to flats, thereby implementing the recommendations made by Sir Martin Moore-Bick in his Phase 1 report arising out of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
In Summary, the Act:
(a) amends the FSO to require all Responsible Persons (i.e. the relevant duty holder under the legislation and note there may be more than one) to assess, manage and reduce the fire risks posed by the structure and external walls of the buildings for which they are responsible (including cladding, balconies and windows) and individual doors opening onto common parts of the building;
(b) applies to all multi-occupied residential buildings and is not dependent on the height of the building; and
(c) allows the Fire and Rescue Service to enforce against non–compliance in relation to the external walls and the individual doors opening onto the common parts of the premises.
(d) it must be noted that the Act does not address remediation costs in relation to cladding or its replacement.
Who does the Fire Safety Act 2021 apply to?
Any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises, e.g., a block of flats. This is likely to include approximately 1.7m residential properties in England and Wales.
The FSA commenced on 16 May 2022. This means that RPs should now (if they have not already done so) consider when to review their fire risk assessments, to ensure these take account of any risk from the external wall. It is important that RPs are directed to, and consider the more detailed guidance from the Home Office about when and how to go about this.
A new Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool has been made available. The prioritisation tool is an online tool designed to support Responsible Persons to develop a prioritisation strategy for updating their fire risk assessments, following commencement. The prioritisation tool can be accessed within The Fire Safety Act commencement guidance, available here.
What does it mean for Responsible Persons?
This will mean building owners and managers of high-rise (defined as over 18m), multi-occupancy residential buildings will become responsible for new areas, including:
• regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local FRS
• ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated
• personal evacuation plans are in place for vulnerable residents
• ensuring fire safety instructions are given to residents in a form that they can understand
• ensuring individual flat entrance doors comply with current standards
What are the risks for Responsible Persons?
The new Act marks a new era of accountability, bringing clarity to where the responsibility for managing safety lies – right from the design and construction of a building through to occupation.
Whilst the Act isn’t yet in force, you should review your Fire Risk Assessments to make sure they cover the external walls and individual entrance doors, bringing your fire risk assessment in line with the proposed Act.
Under the new law, fire and rescue services will be empowered to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.
With financial and criminal liability at stake, now is the time to make sure your residential portfolio is compliant.
Responsible Persons will acquire additional responsibilities under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 which are due to come into force on 23 January 2023.