Government publishes fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats guidance

Wednesday 9th June 2021
Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats

The Home Office on Monday (07/06/2021) have published an update regarding guidance covering fire safety in purpose-build blocks of flats. The Home Office state that “this document is a guide to ensuring adequate fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats, regardless of age.”

“Practical advice is offered on how to assess the risk from fire and how to manage fire safety in such buildings. The document also includes case studies based on the commonly found issues in blocks of flats, with suggested fire safety solutions.”

The Home Office add the important caveat that “This guide was produced in 2011 and originally hosted on the Local Government Association’s website. It is no longer comprehensive and should be read alongside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Consolidated Advice Note and the National Fire Chief Council’s guidance on simultaneous evacuation.

The Home Office has commissioned a revision to this text as part of its overhaul of existing Fire Safety Order guidance. We expect to be able to publish this later in 2021. In particular the information relating to vulnerable persons in paragraphs 79.9 to 79.11 is being considered through the Personal Emergency Evacuations Plan Consultation. We have therefore decided that it would be appropriate to grey out this text while this takes place.”

In the document it is outlined that “The Home Office has taken the decision to host this guide following the Local Government Association’s action to remove this from their website citing changes to government policy and regulation making this out of date. The Home Office had commissioned a revision to this text as part of its overhaul of existing Fire Safety Order guidance. We expect to be able to publish this later this year.

In the interim, it is widely recognised that many of the aspects regarding fire safety in blocks of flats is still relevant and useful for readers. We think it is important that fire safety professionals have access to this guide.”

Third Party Certification and Competence of Professional Fire Risk Assessors

The document outlines that “When upgrading fire precautions, fire protection products and related services should be fit for their purpose and properly installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or a relevant standard.”

It adds “Third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and related services are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products may lack. This does not mean goods and services that are not third-party approved are less reliable, but there is no obvious way in which this can be demonstrated.

…Third-party quality assurance can offer comfort, both as a means of satisfying you that goods and services you have purchased are fit for purpose, and as a means of demonstrating that you have complied with the law.” – Clause 53 (Third-party certification)

The document also states guidance on selecting a professional fire risk assessor commenting “Use of registered or third-party certificated persons or third-party certificated firms to carry out fire risk assessments is one way responsible persons can establish due diligence in compliance with the requirement for a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.”

Purpose-built blocks of flats are very different in nature from commercial premises, such as offices, shops and factories. In selecting a fire risk assessor, the responsible person should ensure that the competence of the fire risk assessor extends specifically to the principles of fire safety applicable to purpose-built blocks of flats.” – Appendix 3 (Selecting a competent professional fire risk assessor).

Stephen Adams, Chief Executive – BAFE commented: “It is imperative that guidance continues to be made available to the public and people responsible for fire safety in blocks of flats. It is reassuring that the Home Office are currently undergoing a review of this information. We advise anyone using this document to refer to the additional advice notes made available and to be thorough in their understanding before implementing any new or updated fire safety policy.”

BAFE must also highlight Appendix 3 and its reference to the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (A3.4):

“At the time of publication of this guide, the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council – a broad group of fire industry and business sector stakeholders – is preparing a competency standard for persons who carry out fire risk assessments on a commercial basis. It is anticipated that this will be published by the end of 2011.”

The competency council published their guidance “Guide to Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor” in 2011. This is now in its third iteration, now published by the Fire Sector Federation 01/10/2021. This is available from the FSF website