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One third of UK businesses failing to test fire alarms in line with the law 20/01/2022

UK BUSINESSES are placing employee and customer safety at risk by failing to test their fire safety systems in order to meet legal requirements. According to a detailed survey conducted by fire safety specialist JLA, 20% of businesses only test their fire alarm systems once every year, while 40% have not given all of their staff members training on the common causes of false fire alarms in the workplace.

With employees and customers returning to workplaces and retail stores following the pandemic, JLA’s study highlights that many companies are ill-equipped to deal with the growing risk of fires at their sites, in turn posing huge risks to their employees and customer safety.

The nationally representative survey of 250 business owners has unearthed the fact that over one third of businesses (38% of those questioned, in fact) do not have suitable fire risk assessments in place. Upwards of 80% don’t include details of regulations about fire alarms, and the risks they pose, within their company handbooks.

What’s worse is that almost 40% of the businesses surveyed have not given all of their staff training on the common causes of false alarms and how to mitigate the risks of them happening within the workplace. This is particularly prevalent in restaurants, bars and cafes, where that figure rises to 75%. If businesses don’t train their staff members in fire prevention techniques and Best Practice, the associated risks could be huge.

In particular, damaged reputation, loss of revenue and a decrease in business efficiency are all potential consequences if businesses and employees are not prepared to deal with the impact of a false fire alarm sounding.

Preparing for the risks

Conducted as part of the company’s ‘False Fire Alarms’ campaign, JLA’s research reveals a huge lack of business preparedness in mitigating the risks associated with false fire alarms.

To best prepare for such risks, businesses should:

*ensure effective and regular maintenance of all fire alarm equipment

*provide training to employees on how to prevent false alarms

*ensure that employees know how to respond to a false fire alarm in order to minimise disruption to the business

Commenting on this research, Peter Martin (operations director for fire and security at JLA) told Fire Safety Matters: “The events of the past year have understandably caused companies’ attentions to move on towards more ‘business-critical’ decisions. However, with a potential 18 months of fire safety complacency, the risks posed to businesses now, as staff and customers slowly start to return to sites, could be much worse than anticipated.”

Martin continued: “Our survey has revealed worrying statistics around businesses not maintaining their fire safety equipment and not delivering vital fire safety training to their staff. This suggests that, if a fire were to occur, many organisations could be placing their customers and, indeed, their employees under extreme risk.”

Further, Martin asserted: “At a time when British businesses need the continued loyalty of their customers and staff, prioritising safety and reducing the risk of false fire alarms should be a priority for every organisation. Ensuring that fire alarms are being frequently tested and maintained is absolutely essential. Failing to do so could not only risk the lives of employees and customers, but might also leave the business facing extreme fines and a damaged reputation.”

*For more information on JLA’s research findings visit https://jla.com/blog/fire-safety/a-third-of-uk-businesses-are-failing-to-test-their-fire-alarms-as-often-as-legally-required/

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Electrical Safety First backs proposed amendments to Building Safety Bill 20/01/2022

ON WEDNESDAY 19 January in the House of Commons, Andy Slaughter (the Labour Party’s MP for Hammersmith and Shadow Solicitor General) tabled proposed amendments to the Building Safety Bill that would see mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks introduced for both the social rented units and leaseholder units within a given high-rise residential building. The move has been strongly supported by Electrical Safety First, the campaigning charity that aims to reduce deaths and injuries caused by electrical issues in UK homes.

Speaking during the third reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, Slaughter observed: “There is not an issue before this House that causes me as much concern as does protecting residents living in high-rise blocks from the risk of fire. That has been the case since August 2016 when there was a very serious fire at Shepherd’s Court in my own constituency. A full evacuation of an 18-storey block was required. Then, ten months later, we had the fire at Grenfell Tower, the absolute horror of which stays with me every day.”

Proposed clauses

Specifically, Slaughter has proposed to move two clauses, the first of which relates to the: “Duty of social landlords to undertake electrical safety inspections”.

(1) A social landlord of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must:

(a) hold a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) for that dwelling (b) provide to the tenant of the dwelling, including any new such tenant (i) a copy of that EICR and (ii) a document explaining the provisions of this Act (c) handle any valid complaint about the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling in accordance with sub-section (5).

(2) A person who fails to comply with a duty under sub-section (1) commits an offence.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

(4) A complaint is valid if (a) it relates to the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling (b) it is made in writing by, or on behalf of, the tenant of the dwelling (c) it is not frivolous or vexatious.

(5) The landlord must investigate any valid complaint within 28 days of receiving that complaint.

(6) If such an investigation shows that the electrical installations are unsafe, the landlord must rectify the situation using a qualified and competent person within 28 days of the completion of the investigation.

(7) If the landlord believes that a complaint is not valid they must write to the tenant within 28 days of receiving that complaint explaining why they do not think it is valid.

(8) In this section, a “valid Electrical Installation Condition Report” (a) is dated within the last five years (b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling (c) has a satisfactory outcome (d) was completed by a qualified and competent person (e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent. “Social landlord has the same meaning as in Section 219 of the Housing Act 1996.”

Essentially, this new clause requires social landlords to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high rise buildings and is intended to reduce risk of spread of fires between flats.

The second clause centres on the: “Duty of leaseholders to undertake electrical safety inspections.

(1) A leaseholder of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must (a) hold a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) for that dwelling (b) provide a copy of that EICR to a person specified by the Secretary of State.

(2) A person who fails to comply with sub-section (1) shall (a) initially receive a written request from the specified person to provide the EICR (b) if he or she fails to comply with such a written request, be liable to a civil penalty.

(3) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, nominate who the specified person shall be.

(4) In this section a “valid Electrical Installation Condition Report” (a) is dated within the last five years (b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling (c) has a satisfactory outcome (d) was completed by a qualified and competent person (e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent.”

Identification of many faults

Slaughter noted: “For 72 people to lose their lives [at Grenfell Tower] in those circumstances is just so appalling that we cannot spend enough time, or do enough, to ensure that such a scenario never happens again, yet we have had other serious fires since that time.”

He continued: “Grenfell led to the identifying of many faults, including external cladding, poor management, poor construction and maintenance, and the people who live in social housing in particular not being taken notice of. It also made us look at the whole issue of fire safety, which is what the Bill purports to do, and in that way Grenfell opened the door on many other issues as well.”

According to Slaughter, the Building Safety Bill as it stands isn’t going to resolve all of the issues involved. “The Government’s approach has been piecemeal. It’s the proverbial Swiss cheese, still full of holes, and there’s a great lack of clarity.”

The MP proceeded to relate “non-exhaustive” list of the issues that he either still cannot comprehend or knows not to have been properly covered in the Building Safety Bill to date.

“The issue has been raised several times, including today, of non-cladding defects in buildings above 11 metres in height. I’m not clear whether these will all be covered, yet all of these issues represent clear and present dangers of fire and fire spread. What about tall buildings that are not specifically residential, such as hospitals and hotels, but still pose risk to people, including those vulnerable people who sleep in them? What about buildings below 11 metres, which, either because they are of a particular construction or because of their use – for example, care homes and schools – also pose risk? We have heard nothing of that, either.”

Planning applications

Apsana Begum (the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse) and Bob Blackman (Conservative MP for Harrow East) have spoken of the fact that, every day, planning applications are going forward that don’t comply with Best Practice.

On that particular point, Slaughter commented: “We have heard the extreme example of blocks over 50 storeys tall that have a single staircase. What about the issue of ‘Stay Put’ evacuation policies? What about alarm systems? What about sprinkler systems? What about ensuring, as I’ve mentioned in dealing with electrical safety matters in particular, that all dwellings in a high-rise block are dealt with equally? Those are all pregnant questions, which I do not see being answered in the Building Safety Bill at all.”

Slaughter went on to state: “Until we start to deal with this issue comprehensively, the Bill will only begin to scratch at a real problem. Yes, it is a real problem. I do not say it-s a party political problem. It has developed over many decades. I think we are all shocked to find out that building standards are so low in this country, but now we know we have to do something.”

In conclusion, Slaughter said “I cannot sleep easily at night knowing that my constituents cannot sleep easily at night because the risk posed to them of, at worst, a repetition of Grenfell Tower, or of something less dramatic, but nevertheless problematic, is still there and has not been addressed by the Government over the last five years.”

Unique risks

Commenting on the Building Safety Bill (report stage) and amendments tabled by Andy Slaughter MP to introduce five-yearly electrical safety checks for social tenants and leaseholders in high-rise residential suildings, Lesley Rudd (CEO of Electrical Safety First) explained: “Those living in high-rise buildings face unique risks and it’s essential this Bill addresses them adequately. We have become all-too-familiar with how devastating electrical fires in tower blocks can be and it’s a matter of urgency that all homes within a block are subject to the same protections, regardless of tenure type.”

Rudd added: “We urge MPs to support mandatory electrical safety checks as part of this Bill so that people and their properties can be kept safe and secure from the devastation that electrical fires in high-rise buildings can cause.”

Electrical Safety First championed the introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks in the private rental sector, which the Government then implemented in 2020. Now, it’s a legal requirement in England for private landlords of rented homes to have all electrical installations checked at least once every five years.

The Grenfell Tower blaze as well as the fires at Shepherds Court Tower, Lakanal House and the recent fire in New Providence Wharf in East London are all thought to have been caused by electrical issues.

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AEI Cables spells out risk of not using approved Category 3 Control fire performance cables 20/01/2022

THE COST of not using approved cabling in signal and control equipment for fire safety is being highlighted by AEI Cables. The company is leading an industry-wide campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of not using approved cabling as specified under the revised version of BS 8519, the Code of Practice focused on Category 3 fire performance cables.

The systems powered by these cables – including smoke and heat extraction systems – assist Fire and Rescue Services in firefighting and a safe evacuation in the case of life safety. The application of Category 3 Control fire performance cables also applies to evacuation alarms for the disabled in care homes, emergency voice communications systems and voice alarm systems in relevant buildings (among them tall buildings, office spaces, hospitals, Shopping Centres and stadiums).

Stuart Dover, general manager of AEI Cables, said: “If these systems fail because the cable is not able to function properly then the consequences are apparent. Lives and property are at stake here. Category 3 Control fire performance cables reduce harmful smoke, toxic gases and flame spread in the event of a real fire.”

Dover added: “We have witnessed a lot of support for our message and our customers are seeing the peace of mind of installing approved cables which provide continuity of power for these systems.”

Industry backing

The wider fire safety industry and practising professionals have also welcomed the message, with the professional fire safety membership body the Institution of Fire Prevention Officers lending its backing.

AEI Cables is the only supplier in the UK with independent approval from the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) for BS 8519 Category 3 Control fire performance cables with a fire survival time of up to 120 minutes.

The company’s Firetec Enhanced cabling has been approved and certified by the LPCB to BS 8519 (Annex B) Category 3 Control in addition to Category 2 Control.

The British Standard Code of Practice under BS 8519 contains six categories of cables – three for power cables and three for control cables – each covering survival times of 30, 60 or 120 minutes.

All of AEI Cables’ products are supplied with approvals from independent bodies including BASEC and the LPCB. The business also holds approvals from organisations including Lloyds, the Ministry of Defence, Network Rail and London Underground Ltd.

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Fire Standards Board confirms standards agenda for 2022 20/01/2022

A FURTHER seven Fire Standards are currently in development by the Fire Standards Board. These include the subjects of Safeguarding, Fire Investigation, Emergency Preparedness and Resilience and Data, as well as three Leadership Fire Standards.

This consultation was completed late last year with the results and revised standard being presented to the Fire Standards Board in December. Quality assurance has now been completed and this standard is due for publication in January 2022.

Fire Investigation
Consultation for this standard was completed in December. Quality assurance is set to take place in January with expected publication by March 2022.

Emergency Preparedness and Resilience
This standard, which has seen a name change from Emergency Planning and Resilience following peer review feedback, is set to go out for consultation in January 2022.

The Data Fire Standard has been drafted and is due to go out for consultation in Spring 2022, depending on feedback from the peer review.

Leadership (x3)
These standards are currently at the peer review stage, with consultation set to take place in the Spring.

All of these standards are in addition to the eight previously published, which are all accompanied by an Implementation Tool:

Emergency Response Driving, Operational Preparedness, Operational Competence, Operational Learning, Code of Ethics, Community Risk Management Planning, Protection and Prevention.

Remaining areas

Research into the remaining areas from the Activity Framework will be explored in the first part of 2022 to clarify a what’s envisaged as a third phase of Fire Standards development.

Remaining areas to explore include communication, engagement, consultation, 

health and well-being, resources (encompassing procurement, contract management, commercial activities, fleet management and estates and asset management), assurance and digital and technology.

The Board relies on the invaluable National Fire Chiefs Council networks to reach the subject matter expertise that helps develop the Fire Standards and peer review them. The Board values feedback from all Fire and Rescue Services and stakeholders during the early development stages, during peer review and also at the formal consultation stage.

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C. S. Todd & Associates Ltd awarded Home Office contract focused on guidance provision 20/01/2022

C. S. TODD & Associates Ltd has been commissioned by the Home Office to produce new guides – and also update existing guidance documents – as part of the latter’s programme to revise and update guidance notes relating to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The guidance, which is Tranche 3 of the programme, will be needed before commencing the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order provisions in the Building Safety Bill.

New guides to be produced include the following:

*a brief explainer on fire doors that captures any regulatory changes

*a summary of the sanctions available for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order

*an implementation guide for the primary fire safety changes planned through the Building Safety Bill 

*a comprehensive overarching fire risk assessment guide

*an overlap guide explaining the difference between a ‘Responsible Person’ and an ‘Accountable Person’ under the Building Safety Bill

Premises-specific guides  

As part of this work, C. S. Todd & Associates Ltd will also rationalise and update all of the premises-specific guides on GOV.UK as well as the guidance on Specialised Housing and Means of Escape for Disabled People.

Further, the company will update all of the guides published in Tranche 2 to make sure they include the fire safety changes made through the Building Safety Bill.

Commenting on this news, Colin Todd (managing director of C. S. Todd & Associates Ltd) informed Fire Safety Matters: “We are delighted to have been awarded this further contract by the Home Office. Our aim is to produce accessible guides which provide clear and detailed guidance for the ‘Responsible Person’, the fire risk assessor or the enforcing authority on how to discharge their duties.”

C. S. Todd & Associates Ltd is now inviting “high-level comment” (rather than granular detail) on the issues experienced with the existing guides, potential areas for improvement and any omissions in existing guidance. Interested parties should submit their comments via e-mail to: consultation@cstodd.co.uk

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Fire Brigades Union offers to co-ordinate with US colleagues on building safety 18/01/2022

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has written to US counterparts with an offer of collaborative working focused on building safety campaigning. This move follows on from the Bronx apartment fire that occurred on Sunday 9 January and, of course, the Grenfell Tower disaster of June 2017.

On the morning of 9 January, and as highlighted in the mainstream media, there was a fire at the Twin Parks North West, a 19-storey residential building located within the Bronx area of New York that plays host to 120 apartments and which was built back in 1972.

The devastating fire – believed to have been caused by a defective space heater bursting into flames – claimed the lives of 17 people, with eight children among them. 44 individuals were injured. Apparently, the space heater had ignited a mattress after being left to run continuously for a “prolonged period”.

The episode represents the third worst residential fire to have occurred in the US across the last four decades and is the deadliest in New York since 1990, when the Happy Land nightclub blaze claimed a total of 87 lives.

Reports from the States point to similarities between the Bronx disaster and the Grenfell Tower fire, with reports of failing door closers, lift problems, a lack of sprinklers and an ignorance of residents’ voices in the years up to the incident.

At the Bronx building, smoke is said to have spread through the structure due to two malfunctioning self-closing doors. All of those killed died from smoke inhalation, while a dozen of the critically injured suffered severe burns.

Twin Parks North West Site 4 is owned and operated by a private partnership involving the LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners and the Camber Property Group, which purchased the block (along with other Bronx buildings) in early 2020.

Building safety overhaul

In letters sent to Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (Greater NY Local 94 of the International Association of Fire Fighters) and Edward Kelly (general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters), Matt Wrack (general secretary of the FBU) said: “The FBU continues to campaign for justice for the victims of Grenfell Tower and for a wholesale overhaul of the building safety regime here in the UK. We are always happy to co-ordinate on this work.”

Wrack also noted: “For many of our members, this episode [ie the Bronx fire] will bring back awful memories of battling the Grenfell Tower apartment block fire in London in 2017. In order to prevent anything like this occurring again, may this disaster prompt politicians to assess fire safety measures in similar buildings.”

Expressing solidarity with US colleagues, Wrack observed: “The response of firefighters was heroic and they have been rightly praised by many people,

including Mayor Eric Adams. Media reports have highlighted the challenging situation facing firefighters, who continued to push through the smoke to seek to rescue those who were trapped. This once again highlights the risks firefighters take every day, putting their lives on the line to save others.”

Further, Wrack stated: “The FBU continues to campaign for justice for the victims of Grenfell Tower and for a wholesale overhaul of the building safety regime in the UK. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.”

Grenfell United

In the years since the Grenfell Tower disaster, the FBU has been working extensively to investigate the causes of the fire and hold those responsible to account, producing reports and participating in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. The Trade Union has repeatedly pointed blame at the building safety system as a whole and also Government deregulatory agendas stretching back 40 years.

The Grenfell United group representing survivors and the bereaved of that tragic night in June 2017 were “devastated” to hear of the New York fire and said its thoughts and prayers are with the families affected by the fire.

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Gove praised for cladding plan, but Government “urged to go further” 18/01/2022

THE BUILDING Engineering Services Association (BESA) has praised Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing) for “taking the initiative” in trying to address the growing cladding scandal, but also warns that the Government’s new plan for ramping up building safety “would not completely solve the problem”.

Gove has warned developers that they must address fire safety issues in buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height – usually between four and seven storeys – or otherwise face legal action. Currently, only buildings above 18 metres tall qualify for Government support to rectify historic cladding defects.

Companies who make profits of more than £10 million per annum from housebuilding have until March to agree voluntarily to Gove’s proposals or face being forced to “shoulder their responsibilities” for the estimated £4 billion bill. Gove has said that he could restrict their access to Government funding and future projects, amend planning rules, use the tax system to penalise them and/or take them to court.

In addition, Gove has extended the period during which leaseholders can sue builders for defects from six to 30 years after completion.

Must go further

However, BESA has suggested that the Government will “have to go further” given that potentially unsafe cladding is only one part of the fire safety problem.

“Michael Gove deserves credit for trying to tackle this extremely complex issue and put right a serious injustice,” said Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical. “However, in many cases fire safety problems go well beyond cladding. Many buildings also have defective or missing fire breaks, unsafe insulation, lack adequate smoke ventilation and use other flammable materials. Who will pay to fix those problems?”

Shared responsibility

Fox has also stated it’s important the Government doesn’t serve to create another unfairness by piling all of the blame and cost for the present scenario on to builders and contractors.

“The Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry has shone a spotlight on shoddy workmanship, but it has also uncovered considerable problems with the way in which some building materials are tested and marketed. Most contractors buy or specify products in good faith having been presented with what should be compelling evidence that they comply with building regulations and are safe.”

Fox concluded: “All parts of the supply chain have to learn from this scandal, and the responsibility needs to be properly shared. Only then can we start to fix the ‘culture’ that led to this problem in the first place.”

Reaction from the RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has also reacted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ new plan to fund the remediation of dangerous cladding and building safety failings.

RIBA president Simon Allford stated: “This new plan should provide some welcome relief to the many homeowners who have unduly suffered at the hands of our flawed building safety regime. We welcome that. We remain concerned, however, that the new funding mechanism will not raise enough money to fully address the widespread fire safety or structural defects that exist up and down the country. The extension of the Defective Premises Act will also seriously impact the availability of insurance for the entire construction sector, affecting not only architects who are needed to help design remedial works, but also others who have never worked on high-rise housing projects.”

Allford went on to comment: “While the new collaborative procurement guidance signals progress, that too will require much stronger Government oversight to prove effective. Despite awareness of the risks, too many construction projects confuse cost, value and safety.”

In conclusion, Allford observed: “To help the construction sector to move forward, the Government must, by being accepting of its role as the regulator that allowed this crisis to arise, devise and enforce a properly funded and sustainable solution.”

RICS statement

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) welcomes the Secretary of State’s announcement to Parliament on building safety and his commitment to delivering a solution which will protect many thousands of leaseholders from the cost of removing unsafe cladding.

In a statement on its website, the organisation notes: “While this solution will not cover all historic fire safety defects, we believe these steps could go a substantial way towards freeing thousands of leaseholders from concern about the safety of their homes and the possible cost of remediating dangerous cladding.”

The RICS is “encouraged” to see the Secretary of State proposing bold steps with the interests of leaseholders at their heart. “We will consider its impact on valuation practice carefully with stakeholders.”

As an organisation, the RICS has consistently taken a proportionate approach towards valuation guidance which is evidence-based and supported by all market participants. “The data, published by Government, demonstrates that this proportionate approach is working, with EWS-1 Forms being requested in a small (and decreasing) number of valuations. We will continue to work with valuers and lenders to ensure that a proportionate approach is being applied consistently in practice. The RICS’ Standards and Regulation Board will keep the guidance under review.” 

In conclusion, the organisation explains: “As acknowledged by the Secretary of State, we continue to work constructively with the Government and all stakeholders on solutions to this critical issue in the public interest. As such, we welcome the Government’s work to support professional indemnity insurance for those carrying out assessments and its continued funding of the RICS’ ongoing work to train more risk assessors.”

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“Targeted funds for cladding remediation may not go far enough” warns British Safety Council 18/01/2022

THE GOVERNMENT has reset its approach to building safety with a bold new plan to protect leaseholders and make wealthy developers and companies pay to fix the cladding crisis. However, the way forward – in which Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing targets the sum of circa £4 billion to replace combustible cladding on buildings of heights between 11 metres and 18 metres – may not be sufficient in financial terms. That’s the view of Mike Robinson, CEO of the British Safety Council.

Robinson stated: “The Government’s announcement is a positive step forward as it will hopefully take the burden off many thousands of leaseholders facing large costs to replace unsafe cladding. It’s also right, of course, that the construction industry continues to play its part in helping to resolve these issues.”

He continued: “The Government must also shoulder its own responsibilities, having overseen the regulatory framework that led to the Grenfell Tower fire and other similar tragedies. We need to see all sides taking a positive and constructive approach towards discussions between now and March.”

In terms of the planned funding, Robinson asserted: “The sad truth is that the funding level being targeted here may not go far enough. There’s currently no intention of paying leaseholders’ costs for other issues beyond cladding that are not included in these plans, such as balconies on a building that have been built with flammable material.”

Robinson added: “The Grenfell Tower fire showed how broad the building safety crisis really is, spanning as it does not just construction, but also design, manufacturing, fire safety and building management. There’s really no excuse for it having taken over four and a half years to reach this point, though. The other issues involved here also need to be approached with a degree of urgency.”

Loan scheme scrapped

Following Michael Gove’s letter to industry, the old proposed loan scheme for leaseholders in medium-rise flats will be scrapped, with industry given two months to agree to a financial contributions scheme designed to fund the new plan. Otherwise, and if necessary, the Government will impose a solution in law. In addition, a new and dedicated team is being established to pursue and expose those developer companies proven to be at fault and force them to shoulder the burden of making buildings safe.

The Government’s four-point plan to reset its approach incudes the following:

*Opening up the next phase of the Building Safety Fund to drive forward taking dangerous cladding off high-rise buildings, prioritising the Government’s £5.1 billion funding on the highest risk

*Those at fault will be held properly to account: as stated, a new team is being established to pursue and expose companies at fault, making them fix the buildings they built and face commercial consequences if they refuse

*Restoring common sense to building assessments: indemnifying building assessors from being sued and withdrawing the old, misinterpreted Government advice that prompted too many buildings being declared as unsafe

*New protections for leaseholders living in their own flats, with no bills for fixing unsafe cladding and new statutory protections for leaseholders within the Building Safety Bill

Broken system

“More than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken,” said Gove. “Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills. The developers and cladding companies who caused the problem are dodging accountability and have made vast profits during the pandemic, while hard-working families have struggled. We are bringing this scandal to an end by protecting leaseholders and making industry pay.”

Gove stressed: “We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding. Working with members of both Houses of Parliament, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through the Building Safety Bill. Further, we will restore much-needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, who chaired the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, responded: “This announcement by the Secretary of State is very welcome and should come as a great relief to the many leaseholders who have felt trapped by the prospect of having to pay for remediating defects to properties which they bought in good faith. Those who caused the problem now need to step up, take responsibility and show some leadership. This problem has gone on for far too long. We need a rapid solution, not months of debate and negotiation that would leave innocent leaseholders in further limbo.”

The announcement that industry is being put ‘on notice’ follows the suspension of Rydon Homes from the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme last month and the decision taken by Mercedes to end its sponsorship deal with Kingspan.

Remediation costs

Gove intends to convene a meeting with developers over the next few weeks, and then report back to Parliament before the House rises at Easter with a fully funded plan of action including remediating unsafe cladding on buildings between 11 metres and 18 metres in height. Should industry not come to the table and agree to a solution, the Government will be forced to impose one.

Clauses in the Building Safety Bill will allow the Government to introduce a levy on the developers of high-rise buildings, thereby building on the 4% tax on the largest most profitable developers, which itself was announced in this year’s Budget and is expected to raise at least £2 billion over the next decade to help pay for building safety remediation.

To ensure that every dangerous building has the necessary work done to make it safe, the Government will open up the next phase of the Building Safety Fund later this year and “focus relentlessly” on making sure that it’s risk-driven.

In a bid to provide more transparency, leaseholders will also soon be able to access a new portal which will show them the status of their building’s application to the Building Safety Fund.

Protecting leaseholders

To protect blameless leaseholders resident in buildings over 11 metres tall from short-term enforcement of excessive bills and potential bankruptcy, the Government intends to introduce a series of rapid measures.

An additional £27 million of funding will see fire alarms installed in all high-risk buildings in order to keep residents safe and end what the Government deems “the dreadful misuse” of costly ‘Waking Watch’ measures, which are usually paid for by leaseholders.

The Government will also work with MPs and Peers to consider further amendments to the Bill to enshrine protections for leaseholders in law, and will continue to work across Government to ensure leaseholders are protected from forfeiture and eviction due to historic fire safety costs.

Changes to grant funding guidance will help those in shared ownership homes who want to sub-let their properties and encourage landlords and lenders to approve requests in recognition of the hardship shared owners are facing.

The Government also plans to introduce amendments to the Building Safety Bill to retrospectively extend the legal right of building owners and leaseholders to demand compensation from their building’s developer for safety defects up to 30 years old. The Bill currently covers defects up to 15 years old. That being so, this amendment will afford thousands more leaseholders the right to challenge.

Restoring common sense

To help restore common sense to the market, Michael Gove has insisted there must be fewer unnecessary surveys and far greater use of sensible risk mitigation-related fire safety measures such as sprinklers and alarms.

Following its statement issued back in July, the Government is withdrawing the Consolidated Advice Note (interim guidance which has been “wrongly interpreted by the industry” as requiring remediation of all cladding irrespective of building height).

As reported by Fire Safety Matters, the Government is also supporting updated guidance (ie PAS 9980:2021), produced by the British Standard Institution, to help fire risk assessors take a proportionate approach towards the assessment of walls and avoid entire cladding replacement works where safe to do so.

In the minority of buildings where valuers deem EWS-1 Forms are still necessary, the Government will introduce an indemnity scheme for building assessors to give them greater confidence to exercise professional judgement.

The Government is also set to begin auditing building assessments in order to make sure expensive remediation is only being advised where necessary to remove a threat to life. New data from lenders demonstrates that EWS-1 Forms are requested by lenders for fewer than one-in-ten mortgage valuations for flats, while lenders are encouraged to continue to minimise their usage in medium and lower-rise blocks.

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Eugenio Quintieri appointed managing director of Fire Safe Europe 18/01/2022

THE BOARD of Directors at European Trade Association Fire Safe Europe has appointed Eugenio Quintieri to be the organisation’s new managing director. Quintieri succeeds Juliette Albiac in the role.

Fire Safe Europe boasts an active community of 650-plus fire experts. The organisation’s overriding mission is to improve fire safety in buildings for people and society as a whole.

For his part, Eugenio Quintieri holds a Master’s degree in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe and speaks fluent English, French and Spanish in addition to his native Italian. He has ten years of experience in European affairs and, since 2017, has been an active political leader within the European construction sector, successfully representing the business interests of SMEs in particular.

Commenting on his new role, Quintieri stated: “It’s a pleasure and an honour to be the new managing director of Fire Safe Europe and contribute towards making Europe fire-safe. Providing an adequate level of fire protection for European citizens is crucial to ensure the sustainability of the European built environment. To achieve this goal, my focus will be to place fire safety high on the list of political priorities of the European Union by creating key alliances with industry stakeholders, European institutions and national actors.”

Fire Safe Europe badges itself as “the European centre” for expertise, networking and resources when it comes to fire safety in buildings. The European fire safety community offers a permanent forum for fire safety stakeholders to connect, pool knowledge and work collaboratively on solutions specifically designed to improve fire safety in buildings.

Political expertise

Speaking on behalf of Fire Safety Europe’s Board of Directors, president Paul Langford explained: “We’re pleased to welcome Eugenio and his political expertise to the organisation. Many exciting challenges await him. The Board is confident that he’s the right person to represent Fire Safe Europe at the European Union political level while leading an outstanding team.”

Langford added: “I also want to pay tribute to the crucial work Juliette Albiac has conducted over the last eight years to improve fire safety in buildings for people and society.”

Fire Safe Europe’s members are researchers, architects, international and European associations, fire engineers, firefighters, national and European policymakers and companies manufacturing and supplying fire protection equipment, flame retardants, insulation and sealants, etc.

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NCAB Group set to run webinar entitled ‘Learn About UL’ 12/01/2022

LEADING GLOBAL PCB supplier the NCAB Group is set to host a webinar under the banner ‘Learn About UL’. The online event runs from 1.00 pm until 4.00 pm on Wednesday 2 February.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a global independent safety science company with more than 10,000 employees and more than 150 laboratories. It boasts over a century of expertise in innovating safety and is a global leader when it comes to standards development testing and certification.

UL recognition of components is driven by end product safety concerns around fire (ie added fuel and ignitability) and electric shock. Many end product standards require UL-recognised PCBs to be used. Typically, each standard will have different requirements for the PCB based on the application within the end product itself.

Topics to be covered during the webinar include the new default solder limits in UL 796 and UL 746E, the role of UL in bare PCB requirements, verification methods along the supply chain, the potential consequences if UL is violated and also the UL Yellow card.

The speakers on the day will be Emma Hudson of the Emma Hudson Technical Consultancy Ltd (and a UL specialist) and also Matt Surman, PCB CAM engineer with the NCAB Group here in the UK.

*To register for the webinar click here and type in the access code 2360 821 4279. Register on the following page by clicking the blue register button. Subsequent to registration, you will then receive a confirmation e-mail containing your access link and password for the webinar

**Further information is available by sending an e-mail to: salesuk@ncabgroup.com

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