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Government recognises need for clear and consistent approach on fire risk assessments

05 May 2020

THE FIRE Safety Bill has had a successful Second Reading in the House of Commons during which James Brokenshire (the Minister of State at the Home Office) focused on the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and stressed that “the Government is resolute in its commitment to ensure that events of this kind are never repeated.”

Brokenshire told Parliament: “The Queen’s Speech committed the Government to bringing forward two Bills on fire and building safety. The first is this short, technical, Home Office-led Fire Safety Bill, which will amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The second, the building safety Bill led by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, will put in place an enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, taking forward the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review.”

The Minister of State continued to note “that the [Fire Safety] Bill is a clarification of the [Regulatory Reform] Fire Safety Order. It will apply to all multi-occupied residential buildings regulated by the Order. The current ambiguity is leading to inconsistency in operational practice. That is unhelpful at best and, at worst, it means the full identification and management of fire safety risks is compromised, which can put the lives of people at risk.”

Importantly, Brokenshire also noted: “I am aware that the provisions of the Bill will require potentially significant numbers of responsible persons to review and update their fire risk assessments. For many, that will require specialist knowledge and the expertise of the fire risk assessor. We are working with representatives of the sector to understand the particular challenges in delivery. That will inform our approach to the implementation of the Bill, while maintaining a clear and consistent approach to fire risk assessments. In any event, and in line with the independent expert advisory panel’s consolidated advice, I would nonetheless encourage those with responsibilities to carry out a fire risk assessment under the Order as a matter of good practice and to consider flat entrance doors and external wall systems as part of their fire risk assessment for multi-occupied residential blocks as soon as possible if they have not already done so.”

Stephen Adams, CEO at BAFE, responded: “BAFE welcomes the recognition of the need for a clear and consistent approach towards fire risk assessments. We are involved in the work of the expert panel and will continue to promote the need for third party certificated competence [via UKAS-accredited certification bodies] for providers of this vital service.”

BAFE has called for a mandatory requirement for UKAS-accredited third party certification of fire risk assessment providers for premises covered by this Bill, which would provide independent evidence of the “specialist knowledge and the expertise of the fire risk assessor” which Brokenshire calls for.

BAFE continues to promote third party certification for this vital service through its BAFE SP205 Life Safety Fire Risk Assessment Scheme and other UKAS-accredited schemes.