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Fire Safety Act 2021 prompts calls for risk assessment reviews

17 August 2021

SAFETY AND compliance expert Bureau Veritas is encouraging landlords and duty holders alike to prepare for the Fire Safety Act 2021 which will make significant changes to fire safety regulation, describing the legislation as “a new era” for building safety.

Granted Royal Assent earlier this year, the Fire Safety Act 2021 will, of course, amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and aims to make matters clearer in terms of where responsibility for fire safety lies.

The new rules apply to all buildings containing more than one dwelling regardless of height and encompass circa 1.7 million premises. The Fire Safety Act seeks to respond to the outcomes of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

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, with a keen concentration on external wall systems (including windows and balconies) and individual occupants’ entrance doors.

Fire and Rescue Services will be authorised to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they’re found to be non-compliant with the law.

The Fire Safety Act follows on from various action already taken that’s designed to strengthen the whole regulatory system for building safety, including new sprinkler requirements and the forthcoming Building Safety Bill which was presented to Parliament in the early part of July.

Significant step forward

John O’Sullivan MBE, technical director of the fire consultancy at Bureau Veritas, stated: “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, it must be said, is one of the biggest outcomes of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry to date. The Government is expected to release further guidance on the Act later this year as further consultation is taking place in relation to the ‘Stay Put’ policy and evacuation procedures for high-rise residential properties.”

O’Sullivan continued: “Therefore, we would encourage any landlord or duty holder to take stock of the new changes already in place and review their 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. With the onus now firmly placed on duty holders to get it right, its essential that the necessary tasks are conducted 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 is expected to be passed into law by 2022. This is likely to include parts of Phase Two recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that will enact a change in the Building Regulations.

O’Sullivan added: “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 building’s duty holder to keep on top of the regulations and ensure risk assessments are accurate. However, third party Health and Safety-focused businesses are able to conduct compliant fire risk assessments and make recommendations for necessary changes to mitigate the risk and ensure that homes remain safe.”

Range of services

Bureau Veritas offers a comprehensive range of fire and life safety consultancy services to suit all requirements, including fire risk assessments, fire engineering services, building control and fire science.

Duty holders can select the services they require to help improve fire safety management in their buildings, while at the same time benefiting from the cost-efficiencies of a combined service.

*Further information is available online at www.bureauveritas.co.uk