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Fire Safety Act 2021 – What do you need to know?

Fire Safety Act 2021

- What do you need to know?

“Whilst there has been much media regarding the Fire Safety Act recently much of it has surrounded the ‘ping pong’ of its progress through Parliament and particularly focusses on what is not now in the Act - but as a Responsible Person what you really need to know is:

  • What is in the published Act
  • When the content comes into force (several schedules are yet to take force)
  • What the implications are “

Anthony Buck BSc (hon) CMIOSH MIFPO MIFSM. Principal Fire Safety Consultant

The events of Wednesday 14th June 2017, when 72 people were killed after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower block, will always remain in our memories. It took firefighters over 24 hours to get the blaze under control.

Because of Grenfell and after much well-publicised debate and controversy, the Fire Safety Act is now law. I am sure many of you are asking what does this mean for our business and what remains from the long list of proposed contents?

Before we get to that, the first thing to note is that the Fire Safety Act 2005 is now known as the Fire Safety Act 2021.

These important amendments have been put in place to ensure that people feel safe in their homes and that a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower does not happen again.

Changes for you to be aware of in the new Fire Safety Act 2021

This is the not so interesting reading bit… But it is imperative that you read it…

Section 1 - Premises to which the Fire Safety Order applies

The domestic premises exemption from the FSO has been amended to give a clearer and wider scope with relation to common areas by
adding a new paragraph:

(1A)Where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises, the things to which this order applies include:

(a) the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts;

(b) all doors between the domestic premises and common parts (so far as not falling within sub-paragraph (a)).

(1B)The reference to external walls includes:

(a) doors or windows in those walls, and (b) anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).

This means that any premises that comprise anything other than a single private dwelling are without doubt subject to the FSO and that regardless of height or any other factor, the external wall system, including balconies, doors and windows, fall under the scope (and consideration in an FRA, which may, in turn, require specialist examination). Also, the front doors of flats, previously only implicitly a consideration, are now explicitly part of the FSO, requiring access and systems of maintenance.

Section 2 - Power to change premises to which the Fire Safety Order applies

This section makes it easier to alter the scope of the FSO in future through Statutory Instrument as opposed to a full Act of Parliament.
Any alteration would require a consultation process to be completed first based on a Draft SI

Section 3 - Risk-based guidance about the discharge of duties under the Fire Safety Order

This changes the status of fire safety guidance specifically relating to buildings comprising 2 or more domestic premises by inserting new
paragraphs to Article 50 of the FSO:

“(1A) Where in any proceedings it is alleged that a person has contravened a provision of articles 8 to 22 or of regulations made under article 24 in relation to a relevant building (or part of the building)

(a) proof of a failure to comply with any applicable risk-based guidance may be relied on as tending to establish that there was such a contravention, and

(b) proof of compliance with any applicable risk-based guidance may be relied on as tending to establish that there was no such contravention.”

(3) After paragraph (2) insert

“(2A) Before revising or withdrawing any risk-based guidance in relation to relevant buildings, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

(4) After paragraph (3) insert

“(4) In this article

“relevant building” means a building in England containing two or more sets of domestic premises;

“risk-based guidance” means guidance under paragraph (1) about how a person who is subject to the duties mentioned there in relation to more than one set of premises is to prioritise the discharge of those duties in respect of the different premises by reference to risk.”

This, in effect, makes enforcement action, particularly prosecution, far more easy to effectively apply. In general, a prosecution not only has to show a departure from accepted guidance but that the departure leads to a significant risk to relevant persons. However, with respect to buildings of 2 or more domestic premises, they would, in theory, now only need to show there was a failure to follow the guidance – this means Responsible Persons must ensure they address FRA actions promptly where they highlight departures from guidance as well as risk

Section 4 - Enactment

Different elements will come in on different dates:

Section 1 – On publication of a relevant Statutory Instrument, with separate SI for England & Wales

Section 2 – After two months from 29th April 2021, namely 29th June 2021

Section 3 – On the date that the SI referenced in Section 1 comes into date

It’s likely that Section 1 may be slightly delayed if anything, because it is tied to Section 3 – the problem with Section 3 is that two of the three principle guides for buildings affected by these changes are obsolescent and under review (LACORS and LGA Guide) so until the relevant guidance is in place in a current form it would be difficult to prosecute by not following them alone. Prosecution, where a risk to relevant persons is present, can still, as always, be commenced.

What does this mean for you?

As Building Owners, you can start to plan and prepare budgets for any remedial work needed for your property portfolio. You also need to be aware that fire services are now further empowered to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.

You may be wondering what that plan looks like. This is where Ligtas can support. If you are unsure what any of this means, check in with one of our Ligtas fire consultants, who will be delighted to walk you through what needs to be done and by when.

What else?

Relaunch of the Fire Kills Campaign

The government are also proposing a relaunch of the Fire Kills Campaign - https://firekills.campaign.gov.uk/. Which will support any work or improvements that you are doing in conjunction with the act.

At Ligtas, we will be ensuring that you are kept up to date with legislation and any other news from the government, which means that you will be able to keep your residents up to date too.

Check in with our Ligtas fire consultant

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