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Building Safety Bill amendment challenged by industry expert

25 April 2022

AN AMENDMENT to the Building Safety Bill, which removes the requirement for landlords to appoint building safety managers in leasehold buildings of seven storeys and above, is being challenged by a leading tall buildings fire safety expert.

The Government has presented several amendments to the Building Safety Bill as the document progresses through the House of Lords to its Report Stage. The most notable is the removal of clauses 82 to 86 relating to the appointment of a building safety manager who had a significant role to manage the Part 4 building safety risk for higher-risk buildings as outlined in clauses 60 to 81, with the latter remaining in place.

Russ Timpson, a former firefighter and now managing director of the Tall Building Fire Safety Network, is urging the Government to reconsider its decision to scrap the recommendation first proposed by Dame Judith Hackitt in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017.

“This latest iteration of the all-important Building Safety Bill states that responsibility for fire safety will now fall squarely on the shoulders of an ‘Accountable Person’, such as the freeholder, head lessee or a management company. While the exact details regarding how this might be implemented are scant at this point, a dramatic rolling back of the proposals would be out of step with the Hackitt proposals and is something which must be avoided.”

Timpson continued: “In my view, it’s abundantly clear that, when it comes to Health and Safety an ‘Accountable Person’ must, above all, be a qualified person. In other words, someone with the knowledge, skills and competencies to proactively tackle and reduce fire safety risk amid what is now an increasingly complex threat environment.”

Additional expertise

According to Timpson, the Grenfell disaster – in tandem with other high-risk building fires – highlighted the need for more expertise in this area, not less, when it comes to tackling incidents and improving fire safety.

“My hope,” continued Timpson, “is that Government acts swiftly to ensure anyone who assumes responsibility for fire safety in tall buildings will be suitably qualified once the Building Safety Bill eventually passes into law. An ‘Accountable Person’ must be a qualified person.”

Candace Miller, executive director of SFJ Awards, the Awarding Organisation which certificates a wide range of fire safety qualifications in the UK (including those of the Tall Buildings Fire Safety Network) stated: “It’s fundamentally important that anyone who is put in charge of tall building fire safety has undergone specialist training, which is backed up by a recognised qualification.”

Further, Miller observed: “A change in legislation is an opportunity to professionalise and raise standards. The tailored training provided by the Tall Building Fire Safety Network has undergone a rigorous accreditation process and is a key stepping stone towards achieving those dual goals.”